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Eagle Scout Project Revitalizes Sand Dune Park

Jul 13, 2023 03:09PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach.

A Manhattan Beach teen's Eagle Scout project has resulted in new native greenery in Sand Dune Park - and money back to the city.

Enzo Ames, of Troop 849, raised $5,000 for his project to replace invasive species at Sand Dune Park with native plants. After rounding up 19 volunteer helpers (who together put in a total of 219 hours of service), he completed the project - and he had $686 left over to donate to the city for maintenance.

"I am very grateful for everyone’s support, and for the opportunities I have had to make a difference," Ames told MB News.

"Go Big or Go Home"

The three-acre Sand Dune Park, located in the northwestern-most corner of the Tree Section, is named for its 100-foot high sand dune. The park is a popular destination for both kids and adults seeking exercise and exposure to nature. In addition to the challenging dune hike, a trail filled with steps and switchbacks winds through plant life and provides an interesting nature walk, culminating in a panoramic east-facing view of the city. 

Ames said he chose Sand Dune Park as the site of his project because after walking by it one day, he realized that it needed work.  

"I've been very focused on conservation and sustainability both in Scouts and in the Global Scholar Program, which I am involved in at Loyola High School, as it’s important to me to help the natural habitat and celebrate our parks and open spaces," said Ames. "Investing time, energy, and thought into making a park in my own community into a better green space, and to make it more beautiful for those of us who use it, seemed like a perfect fit for me."

Ames added that the biggest hurdle he saw was the large scale of the project - but he decided to move forward anyway. "It was a big project, but - 'Go big or go home,'" he said.

(Photos via Enzo Ames)

Ames began drawing up plans for the project in May 2022. The work included drafting and presenting a proposed native planting palette and reviewing and refining the project scope with Manhattan Beach's Parks and Rec and Public Works departments. Ames also worked closely with previous Eagle Scouts to put together a comprehensive work plan and organize the various work days. 

Through a GoFundMe for the project, Ames raised $5,000, with more than 50 contributions from across the community. Then Ames, along with 19 other volunteers from scout troops, family members, and friends, set to work.

(Ames and a friend at work at Sand Dune Park. Photo via Enzo Ames)

Invasive Species Replaced with Native Plants

During the project the team removed almost 2,000 highly invasive, non-native plants. They replaced those plants with California native species such as California Poppy, Hummingbird Sage, Rusty Sedge, Mexican Butterflyweed, and Sticky Monkey Flower.

(Photo via Enzo Ames)

"What’s even better is that the city followed the planting palette I came up with, and implemented it in other areas as well," said Ames. 

Mark Leyman, the city's director of Parks and Recreation, told MB News that Ames' project fits in closely with the Parks and Rec Department's mission.

"This project supports the Parks and Recreation Department’s mission of creating community and enriching quality of life," said Leyman. "Enzo’s Eagle Scout project will enhance Sand Dune park through the removal of non-native plants, revitalizing the soil, and planting native plants that will provide for local pollinators, provide shade and increase overall park aesthetics. It will also provide a habitat for the bird population, which is enjoyed by many birders in the community."

Sean Roberts, maintenance manager for the city's Public Works Department, told MB News that the leftover funds would facilitate the purchase of additional plant material that was used during Ames' project. "As time goes on there will be the need to add and replace plants that did not flourish or were damaged," he said. (The city has a landscape contractor that is responsible for the maintenance of the entire Sand Dune Park, added Roberts.)

In the meantime, Ames earned congratulations and applause from the City Council when he appeared at their meeting last week to present a check for the remaining $686. ("We hardly ever see a refund in government," quipped Mayor Richard Montgomery.)

"Thank you for supporting Scouts, for making my Eagle Project a reality, and for enriching the lives of everyone who visits and attends Sand Dune Park," Ames told the council.

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