The Eagle has landed. But instead of the 1969 lunar landing of the Eagle rocket module, this time the landing was accomplished by Tyler Darroch at Big Cypress Tree State Park. After a service project involving nearly 200 man-hours, six months, and $500 in materials and supplies, Life Scout Tyler Darroch became eligible to land the rank of Eagle Scout in March of this year.
Not many people know the amount of work involved to acquire the coveted Eagle Scout status. A service project is a requirement and must be “helpful to any religious institution, any school, or your community.” This project is thus part of the scout oath “to help other people at all times.” It also involves the scout motto “Be prepared.” A scout must read and fill out the various forms in an impressive 30-page Eagle Scout Workbook to prepare for and report on the service project as it evolves. Tyler also documented each step with photographs and captions and prepared a PowerPoint of his work.
Tyler, who is from Sharon, has just graduated from Westview High School where he was on the tennis team all four years. Soon, he will be attending Tennessee Tech to pursue a degree in engineering. However, he’s lived much of his life in the outdoors, hiking (200 miles of the Appalachian Trail), kayaking, and camping—and scouting. Since Cub Scout days, he has been involved in various scout projects and activities for the past 11 years. Often, scout troops like his unit 11 from Martin have had camporees at Big Cypress Tree State Park, near Greenfield, Tennessee.
These weekend camps made Tyler familiar with the area and with its park ranger, Bill McCall. It was therefore natural that Tyler would choose the park as his service project. Mr. McCall says he is always happy to have the help of scouts and other volunteers since he is the only full-time employee there. Scout projects, like the installation of wood duck boxes and a sign commemorating Davy Crockett’s stay in the area, have truly enhanced the area.
Tyler’s project was six-fold.
- Raise funds or find donors for materials and supplies,
- Identify trees along the park’s 1,142-foot-long boardwalk and attach informative identification signs to the walkway’s railing,
- Construct steps at the end of the boardwalk,
- Clear and blaze a trail from those steps to the Obion River’s edge,
- At the end of the boardwalk, design and install a sign with a GPS-coordinated map of the trail through the woods, and
- Plant a cypress tree within sight of the boardwalk.
This last project may somewhat satisfy tourists who come to the park expecting to see the mammoth cypress for which the park was named. Unfortunately, a 1976 lightning storm led to the demise of this 1,350-year-old tree, said to be the largest of any species east of the Mississippi River. However, the well-written history of the tree near the pavilion and this baby Cypress should increase tourists’ understanding of the tree and the way our natural world works—not always kindly.
As we walked the handicap-accessible boardwalk, Tyler, his father Dr. Craig Darroch, Bill McCall, and I met Jim and Carol Jackson, two travelers from Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, who were not there for the cypress tree. They were ornithologists who simply wanted to enjoy the quiet and add some more birds to their life list. They said this had not been their first trip to the park, nor would it be their last. Dr. Darroch, an animal science professor at UTM, offered to create a list of the birds it would be possible for them to see on their next visit. Another excellent addition to the Big Cypress Tree State Park experience!
Perhaps Tyler’s mom, Dr. Barbara Darroch, plant and soil sciences professor at UTM, and UTM’s Biology Club could even create a list of trees in the area. She was able to help Tyler positively identify trees along the boardwalk before he ordered the necessary signs to identify the trees. Other people he credits with helping him are numerous fellow scouters, Ranger Bill McCall, various scout leaders and council members, the UTM Wildlife Society, Biology Club, Friends of Cypress Tree, Park and Recreation Club, and many businesses who donated supplies or gave discounts, like Lowe’s, Vowell & Sons, and Soleil Nursery.
In fact, Tyler mentions that his greatest challenge was making sure he kept scouts focused while he led them in the work and making sure grownups didn’t take over his own project. He was successful on both counts!
The trail that marks tourists’ hike to the Obion River may be the most interesting part of his project. However, when we tried to walk the path in early July, we soon began to mire down in the bottomland mud. It’s better to pick a dry time of year to walk Tyler’s trail. However, Ranger Bill McCall hopes the park will soon receive its third grant of $200,000 that requires a $50,000 match. These funds will be used to extend the boardwalk to the river along the trail so hikers and even the disabled can get closer to the river at any time.
The annual Big Cypress Tree Festival takes place the first weekend of November. It would be a great time for locals and tourists alike to view Darroch’s work and find out whether or not the grant was approved.
When the Eagle landed in 1969, Neil Armstrong (an Eagle Scout) and Tenderfoot Scout Buzz Aldrin both walked on the moon. Eagle Scouts are certainly known for great accomplishments, so who knows where Tyler Darroch will land next?