Eagle Scout project will create outdoor classroom at Libertyville High

An Eagle Scout candidate has the green light to restore a neglected area of the Libertyville High School campus.

Boy Scout Troop 72 member and LHS sophomore Jacob Short has approvals from village and school officials to proceed with the restoration of a woodland area along Route 176, just south of a $21.5 million school aquatic center under construction.

Short and volunteers will remove buckthorn and other invasive plants, branches and limbs to improve the environment for native trees and plants.

The project also calls for installation of a foot path and eight wooden benches to create an outdoor classroom. Native trees will be identified with plaques to include a picture, Latin name and facts.

The result will be a serene and educational space on campus available to students, teachers and others, according to Principal Thomas Koulentes.

"He'll be able to provide a learning space for the public," Koulentes said.

Short met with Koulentes last year to discuss potential projects that would beautify the campus and have a broader impact. The site along Route 176 has some ecologically valuable trees and plants.

"Unfortunately, there's a tremendous amount of buckthorn," Koulentes said. The invasive plant grows in dense thickets, shading out native trees and plants. Removing buckthorn, which has become a regional initiative among conservation and other groups, allows the other plants to thrive.

The restored area would be a natural for biology and environmental science students but also an attractive meeting spot for other classes, Koulentes said.

Short is assisted by Mike Graham, senior vice president of Landscape Concepts Management.

Over the years, Graham has guided other would-be Eagle Scouts through various projects, including restoration of the limestone wall in the sunken garden along Lake Street in Butler Lake Park and restoration of a Civil War-era cemetery on Winchester Road.

Graham's company will provide professional help with tree pruning and other aspects but Short has been responsible for securing the necessary approvals and organizing volunteers, who will do a lot of the work.

On March 18, Short received 4-0 approval from the village's appearance review commission. Last week, the village board agreed to waive $320 in fees for the project.

Work was to have started last weekend but snow intervened. It is expected to reboot in coming weeks and take two or three weekends to complete.

"I am proud of our student for seeking his Eagle Scout badge and am grateful that through his substantial efforts, a neglected portion of our campus will be reinvigorated and beautified," Koulentes told residents in a letter Friday.

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