Project is part of nationwide Order of the Arrow initiative sending Scouts to five national parks
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HUNTINGTON - Most teenagers see summer as a chance to sleep in and kick back.
But 500 Boy Scouts and their leaders spent the past week getting up at 6 a.m. and chopping trees for six hours a day. And they paid $250 each for the privilege.
The Scouts, representing all 50 states, and 160 adult leaders were part of ArrowCorps5, the national Order of the Arrow's service project. It had 5,000 Scouts working in five national forests during a five-week period.
In Huntington, the Scouts - 42 were from Utah - were working in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, clearing tamarisk from Joes Valley and Buckhorn Wash. Along with helping the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies quash a noxious plant, the Scouts had an opportunity to fulfill the order's mission of providing cheerful service.
"I will be taking away a greater knowledge of service and what it means, and leadership," said Garth Winterton, a Boy Scout from Roosevelt.
ArrowCorps5 was founded five years ago, according to Ben Stilwill, the Order of the Arrow's national vice chief and a Scout from Lansing, Mich. The Forest Service and O.A. leaders discussed having a national service project and identified 13 national forests where Scouts could work.
The list was eventually winnowed to five places, Stilwill said.
In Utah, that meant clearing tamarisk, an invasive plant that poisons soil and sucks up water. Forest Service firefighters and older Scouts tackled the larger trees with chain saws; younger Scouts armed with loping shears and handsaws finished off the saplings.
In their wake: piles of limbs and stumps painted green with herbicide.
J.J. Arnold, the O.A.'s public-relations director, said the Scouts' efforts have pushed back the tamarisk by 30 years, clearing the plant from 31 miles of ground.
Karl Bott, a compliance specialist with the state Department of Agriculture and Food, said the effort made a big difference.
"For those of us who have been here many years, it is a wonderful sight to see it gone," Bott said of the invasive tamarisk.
Huntington Mayor Hilary Gordon was impressed enough with the Scouts' enthusiasm and their willingness to perform a vital service for Emery County that she and the City Council were planning to serve ice cream and cookies.
"These boys are working their buns off for the county," Gordon said.
Even with the early mornings and grueling work in the summer heat, the Scouts seemed to be an enthusiastic bunch.
"They are taking a lot of pride in their work," Stilwill said. "They work every day in 90-degree heat and come back excited."
Roosevelt Scout Winterton said the work was hot and tiring, "but it was fun."
And it wasn't all work and no play.
Scouts took turns taking a day off for rest and recreation, going to the wave pool in Price, rafting on the Green River and riding mountain bikes. They also put on shows each night at Canyon View Junior High, where they also lived in a tent city.
ArrowCorps5 was Arthur Burnett's first visit to Utah, but he says it won't be his last - especially after trying his hand at mountain biking and seeing the sandstone cliffs at Buckhorn Wash.
"I may want to come back," said Burnett, a Scout from Palm Springs, Calif.