BASTROP — The Boy Scouts of America are recruiting volunteers to help reforest a popular campground that was devastated by wildfire over Labor Day weekend in 2011.
Nearly half of the 5,000-acre Griffith League Scout Ranch was destroyed by the Bastrop County Complex, a monstrous wildfire that charred 32,400 acres, destroyed 1,660 homes and nearly consumed the Lost Pines Forest in Central Texas.
Now, the Scouts are joining forces with Texas A&M Forest Service to reforest the ranch with roughly 300,000 drought-hardy, loblolly pine seedlings over the next two years. The seedlings — 50,000 to be planted this year and 250,000 more next year — are being provided by the state forestry agency.
“When you take a look at the community as a whole, the Boy Scout Ranch has been there for a long time. It’s a part of the community. Generations of families have had children go through there,” Texas A&M Forest Service Central Texas Operations Department Head Jim Rooni said, noting that the ranch was the second-largest tract destroyed by the Bastrop wildfire.
“That acreage is probably as entwined in that community as Bastrop State Park in terms of peoples’ attachment. One is public, one is private, but they mirror one another in importance.”
The Griffith League Scout Ranch is nestled on three square miles northeast of downtown Bastrop. Before the wildfire, the landscape was dotted with pine and hardwood trees and thick with yaupon.
But half the ranch — and half of its 20 miles of trails — were destroyed as the massive wildfire ripped through Bastrop, said Rick Denison, director of support services for the Capitol Area Boy Scouts.
“It’s just standing, dead timber,” Denison said, explaining that the forest now is virtually devoid of pines — the very trees for which it had come to be known. “All of the oaks are coming back from the roots and yaupon is already starting to take over. We could end up with a big yaupon forest.”
Scouts and scout leaders already have planted 9,000 of the 50,000 pine seedlings earmarked for the first year of the project. For now, Denison said, they are focusing on key spots around ponds and in riparian areas that are home to the endangered Houston toad.
Volunteers have the opportunity to help plant the remainder of the seedlings on three Saturdays this winter — Jan. 26 and Feb. 9 and 16. Denison said he hopes to get 2,000 to 4,000 trees in the ground on each volunteer work day.
“We’ve got a two-prong project: We want to save the habitat for the Houston toad, but at the same time restore the forest so it will be available for future generations to enjoy Scouting activities,” Denison said. “Any and all help is appreciated getting those pine trees in the ground. We’ve sort of got a blank canvas to restore.”
Interested in volunteering? Email Rick Denison at email@example.com.