Arthur Jacques and his buddies, David Taylor and Karl Grulke are making a difference in town for bluebirds, butterflies and bats.
The young men are part of a group formed in December 2010 called the Venture Crew 422; some of them are Eagle Scouts, the only real requirement is that you are at least 14-years-old and you can be in with the crew until you are 21-years-old.
Although the group falls under the umbrella of the Boy Scouts of America, gender does not matter when it comes to membership. A young woman has applied to be part of the Tolland Venture Crew, which currently includes nine boys who take turns at the Tolland Farmers Market every Saturday talking about their conservation projects and selling bluebird, bat and butterfly houses, waddling toy ducks and tote bags.
The idea for the crew came from Jacques when he was researching ideas for his final Eagle Scout project last year. Through his research, Jacques came across information about William T. Hornaday and his desire to protect the environment from abuse and promote conservation, according to scouting.org.
After Jacques completed his Eagle Scout project – he repaired used bicycles and gave them to the Little Angels Program in Willimantic – he wanted to contribute to the community, and specifically Tolland. Remembering what he learned by reading about Hornaday, Jacques, with help from his father, started building bluebird houses.
When the first batch of five was completed, Jacques offered them to town conservation groups, which, he said, gladly accepted them. With production underway, Jacques put together a business plan, to raise funds to build more houses, hence the reason for selling them at the Tolland Farmers Market.
As of today there are 60 houses, including 10 bluebird houses on King Farm off of Route 195 (the section of road has been renamed the Bluebird Trail). There are 16 bluebird houses at the Campbell Peace Valley Conservation land and 36 houses can been seen at Sage Meadow off of Old Stafford Road.
The idea behind the bluebird houses is "that Blue Birds are harder to see and predators like tree sparrows kill the baby bluebirds, so I wanted a place where they could nest safely," Jacques said.
Because other birds will compete for the houses, the crew places the houses back to back; once a bluebird inhabits one side, Tree Sparrows may inhabit the other side and that ends the fighting over territory, according to Jacques.
Jacques and his father Don Jacques checked on the initial five houses built and put up the 55 new houses in February to clean them (mice had taken over) and prepare them for the bluebirds’ arrival in April.
Now that Jacques has a "crew,” which includes his friends, they hope to start doing more fundraisers with the help of their adviser Mike Sheehan. David Grulke, Karl's father is the overall crew adviser and helps the crew plan other adventures.
Karl Grulke, crew president, said, the group meets every other Thursday to plan not just environmental projects but camping trips, hiking trips up to Sleeping Giant and, with hope, a white water rafting trip this summer in Maine.
The group is fortunate to have strong parent support. Jacques’ mother, Barbara Jacques, manned the Farmers Market this week because the boys were volunteering at a church cleanup. Parents also accompany the crew on any outings.
As they were building the birdhouses, Karl Grulke completed his Eagle Scout project of building and repairing two cedar benches and tables at the Hope Lutheran Church in Storrs. David Taylor is making new benches for the Tolland Middle School for his final Eagle Scout project.
If you would like to purchase these wonderfully crafted Blue Bird Houses which cost $14, or Large Bat Houses $25, small bat $15, small Butterfly Houses are $15, Toy Ducks are $8, and "Give a Hoot" tote bags are $10 you may contact Arthur directly at either the Tolland Farmers Market on Saturday mornings from 9 to noon, or contact Jacques directly at 860-870-1158.