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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Boy Scout helps save sacred site

    A national historic landmark overseen by the UA is now better protected against vandalism and trampling, thanks to the work of a Tucson Boy Scout.

    Steven Erly, a Salpointe High School sophomore, reached the rank of Eagle Scout after collecting $200 in public donations for concrete, fence posts and barbed wire to repair a damaged fence around a 2,000-year-old planting site at the top of Tumamoc Hill at the UA’s Desert Research Laboratory.

    Bristling with saguaros, the 850-acre site is also home to a collection of plants that have been the subject of ecological research since the Carnegie Institution founded the laboratory in 1903.

    Before Erly hit the ground running on his project to help protect the area, a vandal had cut an existing fence surrounding the site, and mountain bikers and hikers had damaged the millennia-old, terraced agave beds, said John Madsen, Troop 122 scout master and associate curator of archeology at the Arizona State Museum.

    “”We’ve had a lot of trespasses on the property where they’ve cut the fences and pushed over some of the early monuments,”” Madsen said.

    At around the same time, an unauthorized trail was blazed on the hill’s south side, cutting directly through the sensitive research and archeological sites.

    “”People built the trail without the university knowing it,”” Madsen said. “”It was used by a lot of hikers and mountain bikers, and it actually disturbed the prehistoric building on top (of Tumamoc Hill).””

    To help protect the area, Erly installed interpretive signs, which declare the area a research site, and he and another member of Troop 122 destroyed the trail.

    He estimates that he invested about 20 hours in the project, and said it was time well spent.

    Once he heard of the situation, Ward 1 City Councilman Jose Ibarra also pitched in by donating two big metal signs, which alert the public to the sensitivity of the site, Madsen said.

    “”The plant plots there are priceless because they’ve been there for 100 years,”” Erly said. “”The archeological sites – they can’t be replaced either.””

    When he isn’t working to preserve ancient land, Erly said he also wrestles and plays football for Salpointe.

    After graduating high school, Erly hopes to study medicine at the UA.

    His brother, Brian Erly, is a sophomore at the UA, majoring in classics and chemistry.

    “”He seems to enjoy (scouting),”” Brian Erly said of his brother. “”He’s an Eagle Scout, so that’s a lot of work.””

    Only five percent of scouts achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, which is the highest possible rank, according to the Boy Scouts of America National Council Web site.

    “”To become an Eagle Scout you have to do a service to the community or to the state, something that contributes to the community,”” Madsen said. “”They’re great guys and they really put a lot of work into their projects.””

    The UA’s Desert Laboratory was added to the National Register of Historic (NRHP) Places in 1966 for its historic architecture and engineering, according to the NRHP Web site.

    The best part about his Eagle project, Steven Erly said, “”is probably just knowing that people aren’t going to go and trash the area.””

    But if the vandals return, he said he won’t be discouraged.

    “”If they knock down the signs or the fences, I’m probably just going to put them back up,”” Steven Erly said.

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