Girl Scout creates turtle crossing
Easton Girl Scout creates turtle crossing
By Vicki-Ann Downing
Dec 29, 2008
Sarah Loftus' goal to achieve the highest award in Girl Scouting is good news for the spotted turtles of Allen Road.
Loftus, a 17-year-old senior at Oliver Ames High School, is working with the town's public works department to create three cuts in the sidewalk along Allen Road, a busy and winding street near Borderland State Park.
Since the town installed the sidewalk in response to concerns about pedestrian safety, turtles have been stymied in their attempts to cross from one wetland to the other. The sidewalk curbs are too high for them to climb, so they tumble into storm drains or are struck by speeding cars, Loftus said.
Five-foot curb cuts and new asphalt aprons will allow the turtles better access. And the project may help Loftus win the Gold Award, the highest achievement in Girl Scouting, attained by only 5.4 percent of eligible Girl Scouts nationwide.
"The object is supposed to be to make a lasting difference in your community," said Loftus. "I knew I wanted to do something to benefit the environment."
Last spring, Loftus turned to the Easton Conservation Commission for ideas. She liked the turtle suggestion best and began working with Kyla Bennett, a member of the Conservation Commission, and Maurice Goulet, operations manager for the DPW.
"I can't really do the construction, so the DPW will do that for me, probably in the spring," said Loftus.
Public Works Superintendent Wayne Southworth said the project, the equivalent of installing a driveway entrance or wheelchair ramp, won't cost the town much in money or resources. The ramps will be cut at three sites that Loftus and Bennett selected on Allen Road between Deer Meadow Lane and Greystone Way.
"We try to say yes to student projects whenever we can," said Southworth. "It's not like this is an expensive proposition. We're not talking a lot of money here. It's a good community project."
Loftus, the daughter of Brendan and Robin Loftus, has a sister, Katie, 16, a junior at Oliver Ames, who is also a Girl Scout. Sarah runs cross country and track, plays viola in the school orchestra and hopes to study environmental engineering in college.
To fulfill requirements for the Gold Award, she met several prerequisites.
First, as a high school freshman, she earned the Silver Award by running craft sessions at a nursing home.
For the Gold Award, she explored three interest projects, in car safety, breast cancer awareness and the performing arts, and volunteered for two summers as a counselor at a Girl Scout camp in Norton. For the career exploration portion, she worked at the Ames Free Library.
As an Ambassador Scout with Troop 633 in Easton, Loftus estimates she will spend 65 hours on her Gold project, which is being monitored by an adviser at the Girl Scout Council. Once the ramps are complete, she will develop a presentation for the community on protecting animal habitats.
And Loftus may even get to see a spotted turtle successfully cross Allen Road. They are most active in May and June, when females travel to nesting sites.
"I haven't seen any yet," said Loftus. "I guess they're pretty rare."
Vicki-Ann Downing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org