Girl’s Efforts Protect Feathered Future

The following article was originally published by the Geauga County Maple Leaf. Our thanks to the Maple Leaf for permission to republish the article here. A subscription to the Maple Leaf will help you stay informed about issues concerning the Geauga Park District and everything that is happening in and around Geuaga County.

PGP Web Editor’s Note: The latest trio of Geauga Park District board members, under the influence of Probate Judge Tim Grendell, have embarked on a costly drive to introduce extreme-sports recreation facilities in the parks. These facilities are unnecessary and require serious disruption of the ecosystem in the parks in which they will be located. The only reason offered to justify the waste of tax dollars on these facilities according to board president, Jackie Dotore, is that “teenagers need something to do in the parks.”

The story below is a dramatic, real-world example of how the parks can be a learning laboratory for young students which allows them to gain hands-on experience making a positive contribution to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment within the parks. This is experience that cannot be duplicated by classroom work alone. It is experience that will be carried forward for a lifetime, unlike the transient thrill of climbing a 12-foot imitation rock face.

Geauga Park District land steward, Jen Weitzel, and the Geauga County chapter of Ducks Unlimited are to be commended for their involvement and support of this project. One can only hope that projects like this continue to prosper in spite of the mindset and lack of imagination of our current board members.

Girl’s Efforts Protect Feathered Future


“She by her efforts will help sustain the ducks for future generations to be able to see growth in the species and fill the skies with ducks.” – Kathy Shimer

Aly Brandt, a Girl Scout and self-proclaimed animal-lover, explored her community searching for a way to make a viable difference.

Through her efforts, a sustainable project benefitting perhaps the most familiar of all ducks will live on in the wetlands of Geauga Park District parks.

“Aly is an amazing young woman,” said Kathy Shimer, co-chair of Geauga County’s Ducks Unlimited. “For a 13-year-old girl to want to protect wildlife and give back to her community is very rewarding, for her personally and for the conservation efforts.”

Added Shimer, “She by her efforts will help sustain the ducks for future generations to be able to see growth in the species and fill the skies with ducks.”

A nine-year member of Chagrin Falls Girl Scout Troop 71236, Aly has begun installing five mallard nesting tubes she built while working toward her Silver Award, which is the second highest award a Girl Scout can earn. The nesting tubes allow ducks to nest out of reach of many predators.

Three tubes were installed at Frohring Meadows in Bainbridge Township during a March 4 ceremony. Tubes also will also be installed soon at Orchard Hills Park in Chester Township and Walter C. Best Wildlife Preserve in Munson Township.

Brandt is an eighth-grader at Chagrin Falls Middle School.


Jen Weitzel, natural resource management land steward at Geauga Park District, coordinated the project with Aly, helping to place the tubes into position amid the wintry morning conditions March 4.

“What Aly built will provide safe nesting habitat for the mallard hen, and increase the likelihood of a successful nest,” Weitzel said. “This project will also be a nice addition to our parks because the general public usually does not get to see a mallard hen nesting, and these locations can also be used for interpretive programs by the naturalists.”

According to National Geographic, “Mated pairs migrate to and breed in the northern parts of their range and build nests on the ground or in a protected cavity. They normally lay about a dozen eggs and the incubation period lasts just under a month.”

Ceremony-goers traversed from the Katydid Shelter to place the new nesting homes on posts about 3 feet from the slushy snow mixture with help from Weitzel and Aly’s stepfather, Chris Smith.

The Silver Award project gives Scouts a chance to show they are organized, determined and dedicated to improving their community. Finished projects should have lasting, educational benefits to the community.

“I wanted to do something related to helping animals,” Aly said. “My mom and I connected with Geauga Park District and they said this is what they really needed, because the parks had none. It would help the baby ducks to have a better survival rate.”

Frohring Meadows is a 298-acre park, known in part for its great shorebird and waterfowl watching as well as its accessible trails along their habitats.

“I was highly impressed with Aly’s project, the five new nests in years to come will give baby ducks a much better chance of survival,” Shimer said. “The mallard ducklings have a very low survival rate without this protective nesting. This helps to increase that dramatically.”

She added, “For someone so young to have such a passion for animals makes me believe in our youth and the future of ducks where they will not become extinct.”

Aly brushed back her long hair and lifted up her fur-lined parka hood as she witnessed her plans being put into motion for her project.

“It is very important for everyone to help in conservation of the wetlands. The wetlands are losing ground, 140 percent in recent years,” Shimer said. “If everyone helps, we will conserve and protect the threatened waterfowl habitat throughout North America.”

Ducks Unlimited is about conservation of the wetlands for all wildlife to have a home. Since 1937, DU has conserved and restored more than 13 million acres of the most critical habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.

In recognition of Aly’s efforts, which are in line with its mission for habitat conservation, DU provided her with a free Greenwing membership.

Greenwings are younger DU members and by joining they “participated in the conservation, restoration and management of wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl.”

Aly’s mother, Kelly Mackenzie-Smith, watched with pride along the shoreline.

Smith said when Aly puts her mind to something she is passionate about, she jumps right in.

“She has always had a great love for animals and this has been a perfect fit for her,” Smith said. “We are so fortunate to have this beautiful park nearby.”

Smith plans to regularly return to Frohring Meadows with her daughter to record activity in the nests.

“I am extremely proud of Aly. So few people achieve this high honor of The Silver Award,” Smith explained. “The next step is for her to work toward The Gold Award, and she will build off her work with the Geauga Park District.”

Shimer smiled as she journeyed back from the newly placed mallard nesting homes to the parking lot.

“I know she worked very hard on these nests and I cannot wait to see what happens in the years to come,” Shimer said.

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