by Will Holland '20
Atop an unassuming hillside off of Jones Mill Road lies the Audubon Naturalist Society’s Woodend nature center. A forty acre campus in the heart of Chevy Chase, the property is an ideal location for local residents hoping to escape the monotony of suburbia. Its biologically-rich ponds, sweeping meadows, and dense forests create a sentiment of harmony that is rarely seen in daily life. My family was drawn to the place as became acquainted with our neighborhood, and over time it came to influence my appreciation of the natural world.
For the ten years that I lived less than a mile away, I visited the preserve countless times. Whether it was to get birdseed or search for whatever wildlife had wandered onto the campus on a particular day, I often found myself beneath the beech trees that seemed to extend in every direction in their towering stature.
So, when it came to deciding upon my project for the Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts, a requirement for all seeking to attain the position, there was no other place that I wanted to assist as part of my effort to benefit the community than Woodend. After visiting the site in early October, I planned to build a trail from the nature center’s parking lot to its back entrance. The project was executed this past weekend with help from fellow scouts, school friends, and adults who I have known all my life. Our objective was to build the trail from start to finish before sun down, and because of some very efficient labor, we completed it with time to spare.
The tasks included marking out the trail with logs, raking leaves, removing all intrusive plants, clipping back branches, and laying wood-chips to create a definite surface. At one point, we even used pick axes to level a sloped portion with the rest of the trail. It took hours of dedication and focus in the cold in order to achieve the feat, but when it was finished we could all take pride in what we had created. What was forest floor at morning was a clear, well designated trail when we concluded our work that afternoon.
However, the most important part of the project was not personal. It’s doubtless that the motivation to finish the job in order to become an Eagle Scout was a driving force for me, but the sentiment that will last much longer than my pride is the benefit that the trail will give to Woodend. As it was a place that greatly affected my outlook on nature, I am thrilled that this trail will connect two different parts of the property and better the experience of anyone coming to visit in the near future. This opportunity to give back to a place that had given me the ability to form some of my initial perceptions of the world is something which makes me exceptionally grateful.
And, I suppose, that’s what community service should be all about. For sure, it’s tempting to view our service hours as items that we can simply check off as we go through high school, but it really does produce a greater appreciation for the world at large to see them in a larger context. The challenge for us when serving food, moving furniture, or speaking with individuals less fortunate than we is to actually see the impact we are making on our community as a whole. That’s what can enlighten our view of the situation and people around us, and can always move us to serve those in need of our help.