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TIJUANA SLOUGH NWR: Building Bridges is All in the Family
California-Nevada Offices , January 25, 2014
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Sam with his troop and family, constructing the bridge at a high-use area of the trails on Tijuana Slough NWR.
Sam with his troop and family, constructing the bridge at a high-use area of the trails on Tijuana Slough NWR. - Photo Credit: Debby Good/USFWS
Sam and his family proudly pose over the brand-new bridge they built.
Sam and his family proudly pose over the brand-new bridge they built. - Photo Credit: Debby Good/USFWS
The view of the bridge, looking southeast onto the beautiful Tijuana Slough NWR.
The view of the bridge, looking southeast onto the beautiful Tijuana Slough NWR. - Photo Credit: Lisa Cox/USFWS

By Debby Good

In working to become an Eagle Scout, Sam Hopsen brought three generations of his Scouting family and friends together at the Tijuana Estuary for the experience of a lifetime. Sam successfully completed his Eagle Scout Project by building a new footbridge that was placed on a public nature trail at the Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge in Imperial Beach, California.

It all started back in April 2013 during an Earth Day event at the refuge, where Sam’s scout troop #806 from Coronado volunteered to remove invasive plants in a special maritime succulent scrub habitat restoration site. The group was very hard working and enthusiastic, and even inquired about the availability of an Eagle Scout project on the refuge. Refuge staff members became excited about the possibilities, and discussed opportunities for Sam’s project. They decided on a footbridge reconstruction project on the trails as Sam’s Eagle Scout Project because the highly-used existing wooden bridge was deteriorating and becoming a safety issue.

Early on a Saturday morning, Sam and his band of merry scouts came to the Estuary to address issues of safety and public foot traffic management during the bridge installation. This planning and review session enabled Sam to take the lead during each phase of the project by giving safety talks and making gentle reminders to his fellow workers about the importance of the proper use of their personal protective equipment. The bridge installation went smoothly and they all celebrated the finished product with a pizza lunch. The scouts learned valuable lessons about working together and asked many questions about the wildlife they observed on the refuge.

Sam made his project possible by raising funds for purchasing lumber, then designing, fabricating, building, and installing a 17’ long footbridge, while also supervising his fellow scouts. His supportive family also partook in the building of the bridge. The installation was completed in a natural habitat setting filled with wetland wildlife and birds. The work occurred within 50 feet of flying and foraging snowy egrets, winter migratory green-winged teals, wading long-billed curlews and endangered light-footed clapper rails. Overhead, a pair low flying northern harrier marsh hawks soared.

It was a very special moment at the end of the project when the three generations of Sam’s family stood proudly on the new bridge for pictures of a job well done. The building of bridge took place not only on the ground but also in the hearts and minds of the community who now understand a little more about the importance of their National Wildlife Refuges as a result of their volunteer Eagle Scout experience.

Special thanks to long term volunteer Steve Bush, whose early morning willingness and expertise with the saw, safely expedited the demolition of the old bridge.

Debby Good is a Park Ranger for Tijuana Slough and San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuges in Imperial Beach and San Diego, California.


Contact Info: Lisa Cox, 619.476.9150 ext. 106, lisa_cox@fws.gov



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