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Preserving Sherwood: Cregan’s journey to the highest Eagle Scout Award

Jackson+Cregan+24+stands+to+become++the+third+Eagle+Scout+in+108+years+to+be+awarded+the+Conservation+Award+after+he+completed+two+arduous+environmental+projects+at+Sherwood+Island+last+fall.+%28Photo+contributed+by+Jackson+Cregan+24.%29
Jackson Cregan ’24 stands to become the third Eagle Scout in 108 years to be awarded the Conservation Award after he completed two arduous environmental projects at Sherwood Island last fall. (Photo contributed by Jackson Cregan ’24.)

Years of research, planning, and planting led to this moment. This particular senior Eagle Scout had finalized not one, but two environmental conservation projects to protect the beaches and parks at Sherwood Island, a crucial and demanding action, with the Connecticut coastline eroding two feet per year. After his projects were completed, Jackson Cregan ’24 stood proudly in front of his parents and fellow Boy Scout Troop members on May 17 as he received the prestigious Eagle Scouts Conservation Award, becoming only the third Eagle Scout to do so in 108 years.

To become an Eagle Scout, Cregan had to earn 21 merit badges in various categories, such as cooking or nature, complete one passion based project, and hold a leadership position within his troop. However, to achieve the Distinguished Conservation Service Award, two rigorous conservation projects must be completed and 13 additional merit badges in purely conservation and science attained. 

Cregan completed his first project in April of 2022. He and his team planted 6000 square feet of American Beachgrass on the East Beach of Sherwood Island to protect the deteriorating dunes after they were bulldozed in 2000 to create a better view of the park. His second, removing invasive plants like Asian bittersweet, Artemisia, and Phragmites and replacing them with pollen-encouraging plants such as Goldenrod seeds, on a 17,000 square foot section of the beach which is now called the “Pollinator Pathway,” was finished that December. Both work to encourage wildlife and protect the balance in which Sherwood Island visitors interact with the ecosystem. Cregan started the research for both projects long before in the summer of 2021.

“The research took a longer time, about 3 to 4 months,” Cregan said. “[We researched] online about what tools we might need, what method to plant the beach grass and what way to take out the invasives.” 

The actual undertaking involved many more hands than just his fellow Troop Scouts. Cregan noted that one of the best parts of both of the projects was the opportunity to bring various groups of people together to help the ecosystem. To advertise, he set up a SignUpGenius where friends and family could put their names down for a time slot to help the dunes. His Scout Advisor, Laura Bernaschina, was one of those volunteers. 

Troop 36 is a smaller troop, so sometimes it isn’t easy to get all the volunteers necessary,” Bernaschina said. “Jackson did a great job recruiting his volunteers. There were family members, scout families and players from his soccer team. It was amazing how much was cleared away that day.”

Alongside his Scout Advisor, Cregan had guidance from the Park and Recreation Supervisor at Sherwood, John Guglielmoni. 

“I would compliment Jackson on his perseverance,” Guglielmoni said. “There were times when volunteer forces to assist with the effort fell through, or weather did not cooperate, and he was always prepared with a compromise or resolution.”

Weather was not the only thing that proved an obstacle for Cregan throughout the laborious process. Lisa Calabro, Cregan’s mother, mentioned that he was also faced with the tough timeline of getting his sand dune project approved and matching it with the right planting season. 

“It was very late in the spring when [Cregan] received approval from the BSA Council,” Calabro said. “Beach grass is best planted in early spring. Instead of pushing the project off until next year, he put his head down and started emailing and calling every supplier he could find online, even though their sites said the season was over.”

His determination paid off after he reached an agreement with a supplier in New Jersey. His interest in environmental protection stems from being introduced to the conservation group called the Friends of Sherwood Island by former Staples soccer coach, Dan Woog. He joined the group in November of 2020 after searching for something to do outside during the pandemic.

“I went there once and started falling in love with [conservation], and so I stuck with it,” Cregan said. “We do a bunch of stuff like planting beach grass, as I did in my project, and other stuff like planting trees [and] removing invasives.” 

One of the head conservationists at the Friends of Sherwood Island group, Michelle Sorensen, introduced Cregan to the exact type of project he wanted to accomplish, and she was able to watch both projects flourish throughout the year. Not only had the beachgrass begun supporting new dunes, but some monarch caterpillars had already found Milkweed in the Pollinator Pathway. 

I felt pride in the work accomplished by myself and my volunteers. The process and the dedication required to earn this award make it even more meaningful. When they presented me with the award at the Eagle Scout Ceremony, it showed my hard work and commitment to the conservation efforts that I am a part of.”

— Jackson Cregan ’24

“The immediate impact of Jackson’s work was amazing,” Sorensen said. “He saw that he could restore a 75’ by 10’ patch of dunes by his own initiative. The grasses thrived the first year and were noticed daily by visitors to the park, who learned that individual actions can make a meaningful impact for beach erosion protection and to provide wildlife habitat.”

Among the Eagle Scouts Conservation Award, Cregan has earned 46 other Scout merit badges in various areas. Both Bernaschina’s encouragement and his own passion for the environment drove him to achieve as many merit badges as he could. 

“I started working on merit badges with Jackson during the pandemic lockdown,” Bernaschina said. “Jackson made full use of his time. He completed a number of the badges and was always very focused on his merit badge work. Just learning to work together will help Scouts with teaching skills, preparing food, and coordinating an Eagle Project. These are all life skills that will stay with you.”

Though all his accomplishments are stately, the Boy Scouts of America’s Distinguished Conservation Award proves extraordinary. Cregan’s ceremony was the first time that the Connecticut Yankee Council had ever given out the award. 

“I felt pride in the work accomplished by myself and my volunteers,” Cregan said. “The process and the dedication required to earn this award make it even more meaningful. When they presented me with the award at the Eagle Scout Ceremony, it showed my hard work and commitment to the conservation efforts that I am a part of.”

Regardless of the prestige of his accomplishments, Cregan has not stopped his work in either the Eagle Scouts or in conservation. He hopes to continue his pursuit of environmental and agricultural studies in college, and has also taught younger scouts at Camp Sequassen in the summer, educating about the various merit badges and spreading his love for the environment. Cregan has also spent summer trips in Maine working on organic farms and helping out in Bellingham, Washington to repair flood-damaged properties. He is planning on doing the same to properties in Vermont this upcoming summer.

The Scout Slogan is “Do a Good Turn Daily,” Bernaschina said. “ It’s great when a Scout does something they are passionate about. Jackson is very conservation-minded. Having Sherwood Island benefit from his project made total sense, and everyone who volunteered for Jackson’s Eagle Project did their good turn that day. Seeing Jackson’s smiling face on the day of his Eagle Project made it all worthwhile.”

To bring his work to Staples, Cregan has plans to introduce a similar dune project to the student body to see if there is a great interest. Should it be approved and executed, any student would gain experience in restoration at another section of Sherwood Island and join the conservation community there. 

“The project would be scheduled for some weekend in spring, carefully chosen for weather conditions and to accommodate the availability of students,” Cregan said. “I want students to have the potential for a positive and lasting impact on the local environment, just like when I realized that I have made a big difference in [my] projects. I would like to share that same feeling with the Staples Community.”

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Nina Bowens ’25, On The Wreckord Producer
On The Wreckord Producer Nina Bowens ’25 has had a passion for producing and editing long before joining Inklings.  “I have a love for acting and on-camera work from my childhood,” Bowens said. “When I was little, I used to use Imovie and make youtube videos and not post them, and I just fell in love with editing.”  Bowens wanted a creative outlet where she could write articles and make videos when she joined Inklings, but she found a sense of belonging too.  “I love the friendships I have made here,” Bowens said. “It truly is a special environment.”

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