Seventeen-year-old Jacob Davis Smith has already done something most adults will never do in their lifetimes– he has organized and supervised a crew of 30 volunteers working together to complete a project that will benefit the community and the environment. Smith, a senior at Long Beach Poly High School, is overseeing the enhancement of the drought-tolerant demonstration garden growing in Signal Hill’s Reservoir Park on Gundry Avenue, just south of Wardlow Road.
The successful completion of the project will help Smith achieve Eagle Scout rank. The teenager is now a Scout in Long Beach Boy Scout Troop 29, and most of the volunteers on his crew are also part of that troop. (Troop 29 meets 7pm every Monday at Bixby Knolls Christian Church, 1240 E. Carson St.)“The garden was created before I started this project, but it did not have signs saying what the plants were,” he said. “I felt it was important for visitors to the garden to know the names of the plants so they could order them from nurseries if they want to plant them in their yards.”
With the help of his father, Philip, Smith had the signs manufactured by a New York sign company that specializes in weather-proof outdoor signs and plaques. His volunteer crew installed them last Saturday, Nov. 10. This Saturday, Nov. 17, a smaller group of volunteers will construct an educational kiosk– designed by Smith, his father, and his mother, Robin– in the park.
“Each sign has the plant name and a code number,” Philip Smith said. “Visitors will be able to go to the kiosk with the code numbers to get information on the plants they are interested in.” He added that the kiosk will also have a QR code that can be scanned by a smartphone and will link visitors to the City of Signal Hill website.
The City provided a small portion of the funds for the project, but Jacob raised $1,350 for it himself, and he is still in the process of generating funds to pay for it. “I raised the money by selling plants,” he explained. In fact, anyone driving through the 3600 block of Lewis Avenue in Long Beach will probably notice the ongoing plant sale taking place at the Smith house.
“The money from all the plants we are selling is going into the project,” Philip said.
Before the project began, Jacob had to submit a detailed, four-page “Eagle Scout Service Project Proposal” to the Long Beach Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America. The proposal included: the project plan; lists of materials, supplies and tools; safety issues; and planned fundraising activities. The Boy Scout Council approved the proposal, and Smith began working on the project about two months ago.
The work included getting the approval of the Signal Hill Parks and Recreation Commission. Smith made a presentation of his plan to that body during its regularly scheduled Oct. 10 meeting, and the commission gave him its unanimous approval. “It’s a very worthwhile project,” said Gary Dudley, commission chairperson. “The City of Signal Hill tries to encourage residents and business owners to have landscape that does not require a lot of water, and Jacob’s project will help people understand that they can have attractive yards with vegetation that grows with little water and low maintenance.”
Pilar Alcivar-McCoy, director of community services for the City, elaborated. “We dedicated the demonstration garden and some fitness equipment in Reservoir Park in April 2011,” she said. “The purpose of the garden is to have people look at plants that use less water and are more adaptable to the climate and environment of Southern California.” She added that the total cost of the design and installation of the garden and the fitness equipment was approximately $150,000 but that $144,000 of that came from a state grant to the City.
“The public works department purchased some of the material that was used to make the signs for Jacob’s project,” Alcivar-McCoy said. “Other than that, he has raised all the funds for the project himself.” She noted that she was very pleased with how Smith has enhanced the garden. “It will give us the opportunity to get more information to the public,” she said, adding that the signs and kiosk will tend to inspire more people to replace lawns with drought-tolerant plants.
The demonstration garden was designed and installed by Long Beach-based Jon Cicchetti Landscape Architects, with Laurie Martz serving as lead designer. “The garden has two sections,” Cicchetti said. “One section features different types of grasses that don’t require as much water and mowing as most lawns. The other section features drought-tolerant plants that people can put in their yards instead of grass.”
Cicchetti had nothing put praise for Jacob. “He is an amazing, engaging, energetic young man, and his smile says it all,” he said. “He has done a remarkable job in the garden.”
Dudley agreed. “All of us on the commission were very impressed by the way he presented his plan to us, and we were also very impressed by the plan he created,” he said. “He is a remarkable young man.”
Smith, who hopes to become a veterinarian, said he feels very good about the signs and the kiosk. He added that he couldn’t think of a better way to earn his Eagle Scout rank. “I feel that this project is important to the community because we are in a drought and we do overuse water because we want to keep our lawns green,” he said. “Drought-tolerant plants are the best alternative to having a traditional lawn.”
Robin Smith noted that her son still needs to raise a substantial amount of money to pay the project’s costs. “We want people to know that they can make a tax-deductible donation to Troop 29 or they can come to our house at 3616 Lewis Avenue to buy plants,” she said.