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Weed whacker

Eagle Scout project digs in to create a peaceful spot for housing residents
by: Ray Pitz, The spot where Kevin McClure is standing used to be covered with blackberry bushes and weeds. His open space cleanup project helped clear the area during two long weekends. McClure opened up a 1,200-square-foot spot so residents of a nearby housing complex for the developmentally challenge, would have a green spot to enjoy.

Several weeks ago, Kevin McClure eyeballed the challenge ahead of him: Trying to transform a 1,200-square-foot swath of property - overrun with weeds, blackberry bushes and grass - into a presentable open space.

An ambitious challenge for his Eagle Scout project, McClure enlisted the help of volunteers to help clear a lot next to The Bridge, a low-income housing project for the developmentally challenged near Southwest 141st Avenue in Beaverton. The facility is run by Tualatin Valley Housing Partners.

'I just found a completely overgrown environment behind one of their projects so I just decided to clean it up,' said McClure.

Armed mostly with gloves (although there was the occasional shovel, weed trimmer and, yes, even a machete), the group spent two recent weekends transforming the site into a place where residents can relax and find some peace.

'I've had about 20 people both days and it's been about 100 hours of service,' said McClure, a member of Boy Scout Troop 605. 'I stripped it to the dirt.'

Going all the way down to bare dirt proved to be a hard-fought battle for an area overrun by 3-foot-tall grass and loads of blackberries.

Through the years, the space had been relegated to a dumping area for nearby construction with many of the items buried under the tall grass, said McClure.

'We found a lot of concrete, a lot of rusted metal,' he said. 'We even found a 10-foot section of wooden gutter.'

Donations help

After clearing the property, McClure, a senior at Beaverton High School, and his helpers, put down about 7.5 cubic yards of bark dust to create a path.

He also created a 10-step dirt stairway down into the hillside, using 6-by-6 lumber shored up by rebar to keep it in place. The stairway is almost identical to those found on trails in state parks, McClure pointed out.

Since the sloped land created a runoff where water would often flood nearby properties, a special federally mandated runoff pond was built on site several years ago. Since the area around the six-foot deep pond prohibits removal of any overgrowth, it's not hard to see the massive amount of overgrowth McClure had to contend with.

McClure still hopes to place ground cover such as vinca and clover to create a landscape that needs low or no maintenance. He also hopes to plant several Oregon grape bushes as well.

'So far, I've had everything donated,' said McClure.

Although he didn't see any wildlife during the cleanup, a lone squirrel jumped from a tree and scampered within feet of McClure as he explained his project last Friday.

Camping highlights

A Boy Scout since the sixth grade, McClure says the highlight of Scouting has been going camping with fellow Scouting friends over the years, an activity that earned him a 75 Night Camper Award.

'You don't really think about it,' McClure said of the many nights spent in a tent. 'You just go camping for six years until you've been out for 75 nights.'

Enrolled in six International Baccalaureate classes at Beaverton High, McClure hopes to become an aerospace engineer, ideally studying at the University of Notre Dame.

He recently took a three-week engineering course at the school and attended three lectures a day by engineering professors at the South Bend, Ind., school.

Meanwhile, McClure plans to soon put the finishing touches on his project by adding two park benches. He also will build an 8-by-8-foot planter box.

'It's just going to be a gardening box for residents to plant flowers and whatever they want,' he said.