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Scout starts bluebird trail

March 20, 2004|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

Hundreds of bluebirds soon may be nesting along Interstate 81 thanks to the efforts of a Chambersburg Boy Scout and his troop.

Matthew A. Purnell of Troop 128 has created the I-81 Bluebird Trail and Community Bluebird Program as his Eagle Scout project.

A member of Troop 128 from First Lutheran Church in Chambersburg, Pa., Purnell said that the bluebird trail will run along both sides of I-81 between Marion, Pa., and the Maryland state line. He and fellow troop members and parents built the nesting boxes, 100 of which will be placed approximately every two-tenths of a mile on existing fence posts in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's right-of-way.

Purnell, 16, placed the first nesting box on a fence post behind the Antrim Township municipal building after a brief ceremony Friday morning. Highway noise doesn't bother the bluebirds, he said.

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A student at Chambersburg Area Senior High School and the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, Purnell said he expects to become an Eagle Scout in about a year, when his project and paperwork will be complete. Troop 128 has committed to cleaning the boxes each spring.

State Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin, who attended the ceremony and helped Purnell put up the first nesting box, said that the trail is "an enhancement. Bluebirds will be coming, and that will add to the beauty of the area. It's a good team effort; the Game Commission, PennDOT, Antrim Township and the Scout troop worked together to benefit the area."

According to Troop 128 Scoutmaster Paul Holbrook, the habitat of the bright blue, much-loved songbird has diminished over the years due to lumbering, land being cleared for farming and housing, and trees dying or being used for firewood. The reduction in the supply of natural nesting cavities in old trees and wooden fence posts, along with competition from the house sparrow and European starlings, combined to lower the bluebird population over the years.

Holbrook added that other smaller birds also may use the boxes.

"We hope to help the bluebirds, but the little sparrows will thank us, too," he said.

As part of his project, Purnell also is starting a Community Bluebird Program with an additional 80 boxes. Each of the local townships and boroughs has agreed to accept five bluebird houses to post and monitor, Purnell said. He presented the first one to Antrim Township Administrator Teresa Schnoor at Friday's ceremony. He said he also will offer five boxes to each of the sportsmen's clubs in Pennsylvania Game Commission District 4-28-2.

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