Eagle Scout Project Provides Homes for Purple Martins

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Boy Scout Troop 55 in Somers Point helps Benjamin Young with his Eagle Scout project by giving a hand with the installation of a purple martin house. (Photos courtesy of the Somers Point Green Team)

Two very important new homes have been constructed in Somers Point. They are unique, bayfront, and have been erected at Kennedy Park as part of an Eagle Scout project. The homes are very special habitats for some local residents — purple martins.

Benjamin Young of Somers Point, a Holy Spirit High School student, is currently Life Scout rank with Boy Scout Troop 55 in Somers Point.

When it came to deciding on an Eagle Scout project, he wanted to assist the Somers Point Green Team because he has an interest in sustainability.

Benjamin approached the Green Team in early 2021 to see if there were ideas on how he could do a project that would benefit both the community and the environment, according to a Somers Point Green Team release.

The group had a perfect project in mind because the members had already been discussing how they would like to provide habitats for some important species in the area, like eastern bluebirds, big and little brown bats, and purple martins, according to the release.

The Green Team had selected these species to foster due to their appetite for insects, which can be pests for the community. Having native species that eat insects helps to reduce the use of pesticides, which is much better for people and the environment.

Young selected the purple martin houses for his project when he learned how important it is for humans to provide habitats for the birds. The eastern variety are almost entirely dependent on humans for their nesting. This dependency on humans began centuries ago when Native Americans wanted to provide habitats for the birds for the same reason the Green Team wanted them around — their insect diet.

Native Americans hung hollowed-out gourds on sticks or the branches of trees to attract purple martins, and the birds seem to have appreciated the efforts.

There is documentation of this symbiotic relationship from early colonists, and as European settlement continued, the trend of providing habitats for this helpful and interesting bird carried on. The native people and settlers received insect control and the birds received protection from their predators, namely snakes, raccoons, squirrels, owls and other birds of prey.

Young learned a lot during the planning and execution of his project.

“I realized how much goes into building a large bird house for purple martins. Since I was replacing deteriorated houses at Kennedy Park, we wanted to build the same style, and they are really more like bird condos than houses,” Young said. “From the outside it just looks like four walls and a roof, but inside there are many individual rooms.”

As an Eagle Scout candidate, Young’s job was to plan and supervise other Scout volunteers from his Troop.

This meant selecting dates for projects, dealing with inclement weather, handing out assignments, and supervising to make sure each task was done properly.

It is also important to request donations so the cost of the project isn’t a burden on the Scout, his family, or the beneficiary — in this case the Somers Point Green Team, the release states.

Bill Reinert, a member of the Somers Point Green Team, was the representative for the beneficiary.

As a naturalist and former mosquito control superintendent for Atlantic County, Reinert is familiar with the insect-eating species purple martin.

Reinert shared some of his wisdom with Young in the early stages of the project and was at Kennedy Park to watch the bird houses get mounted on the posts. The completion of the project took place on June 8.

The houses, which had been built over three previous work sessions, were mounted and identified with signage.

“It takes a lot of hard work and team work to complete a community project like this. In addition to meeting with the Green Team a couple times for our approval, Ben had to get approval from the City of Somers Point Board of Recreation Commissioners, which required making a presentation to the board at their monthly meeting,” Reinert explained.

He continued, “We are grateful to Ben and his efforts as this is an environmentally beneficial project that is now complete at no cost to the city.”

Young was able to receive the lumber, parts and paint required for the project through generous donations.

The Somers Point Green Team and Somers Point Boy Scout Troop 55 make a great team, as there are many other projects that can be undertaken to make the city even more sustainable, beautiful, and enjoyable.

From left, Chris Young, Benjamin Young, Boy Scout Troop members and Bob Bender.