By Barbara Kessler
Like many boys approaching their Eagle Scout project, the crowning achievement of years spent working up the ranks of the Boy Scouts, Daniel Fallgatter often wondered what he would do to serve the community and win his Eagle badge.
Daniel, 14, was still in Clark Middle School in Frisco, and had plenty of time to become “an Eagle,” the top rank for a Boy Scout. But after he advanced to Life Scout, the rank just below Eagle, he wanted to push ahead. Daniel, who also enjoys track and cross country, loved nature and wanted to do something nature oriented. But what?
Then he and his father read an article in the newspaper about how Texas had lost an estimated 300 million trees to the drought of 2011-2012.
“I knew I couldn’t do (replant) millions of trees because that would just take a whole lot of time,” he said, grinning as he sat on a picnic table at Frisco’s Northwest Community Bike Trail and Park.
But he also knew he could do something to help. So Daniel contacted the city’s Urban Forestry Board and worked out a plan to contribute trees to the park.
The board welcomed his ideas, said chairman Mike Zapata, and cleared the path forward for planting the trees at the new park.
” Anytime we can get trees into the ground, that’s one of the missions of our board, so we’re always excited to find partners in that,” Zapata said.
Daniel could have decided to plant 100 trees, but that wasn’t the sort of thinking that got him to the Eagle Scout phase three to four years ahead of many Scouts, who typically pursue their Eagle Badge in high school. (A Scout has until they’re 18 to finish their qualifying community project.)
Daniel wanted to go big, so he decided to plant a mix of 500 trees saplings in the hope that 300, maybe more, will survive.
After researching native, drought-hardy trees and shrubs, he raised donations from family and friends and ordered the trees from West Texas Nursery.
The order included two types of shrubs, Sand Plum and Sumac Aromatic, and four tree varieties, Honey Locust, Oak Chinkapin, Osage Orange and Red Mulberry.
“All the trees I picked are native to Northeast Texas, because of the drought, they will have a better chance of surviving,” he said.
And so on April 6, Daniel, his parents Peter and Sandra Fallgatter, and about 30 Scouts, Cub Scouts and friends, converged on Northwest, a park and mountain bike recreation area still under development.
Daniel divided the saplings into 11 buckets, each with a mix of trees and shrubs — the way nature does it — and the crews set out to plant. They worked for several hours, planting in a variety of areas around the dirt bike trail.
Daniel hopes the plantings will survive, though he expects that a percentage will fail in the course of the first year. Those that survive, however, will help feed wildlife and provide valuable shade for those using the municipal trail system.
“I don’t like to see trees die. I don’t like to see plants not growing in an area like this,” he said, his eyes sweeping the brushy, rolling fields. “It’s dry. Trees can change that.”
Zapata agrees. The Urban Forestry Board was especially pleased that Daniel chose trees that will provide forage and survive on local rainfall.
“They may not be as popular in traditional suburban settings, but in this natural area, it was a good idea,” said Zapata, who also turned out on planting day to oversee the project and offer encouragement.
Now that the trees have been set into place, Daniel hopes for spring rains and plans to return during the summer to hand water the saplings. They’ll need a little help to have a fighting chance during what could be another blistering summer.
“I want to look back years later,” he said, “seeing all these trees we planted.”