Bobby Nice has been a Boy Scout for eight years, earning all kinds of merit badges along the way. But one he is working on now is requiring hundreds of hours of work to clear invasive species from the Dunwoody Nature Center.

Nice, 13, lives in Snellville, but when he decided he wanted to earn a Hornaday award, he found the Dunwoody Nature Center was a perfect place to fulfill the requirements.

Boy Scout Bobby Nice. (Special)

“A Hornaday project is a long-term project, in-depth and more involved than an Eagle project,” Nice said.

Named for William T. Hornaday, Hornaday awards are presented to scouts who complete a months-long, or even longer, natural resources conservation project. Hornaday was a zoologist and conservationist and was the first director of the New York Zoological Park, now known as the Bronx Zoo.

“I have always liked conservation and nature and this project allows me to return the favor,” said Nice, who attends an online school.

When searching for a project, Nice spoke to staff members at the Nature Center, who proposed working on clearing out invasive species, such as Chinese wisteria, that were growing in the park, on the forest floor and on trees.

Although Chinese wisteria, which blooms purple flowers in spring, can be pretty to look at, the plant can actually choke other plants and native species and kill them, Nice said.

“It’s sort of like kudzu,” he said.

So with shovels, clippers and his own hands, Nice, along with his mother, Michele Babcock-Nice, have spent every Friday since last spring at the Nature Center clearing away Chinese wisteria as well as Chinese privet. Chinese privet grows small, white flowers, and also chokes out native species. The way to eliminate both invasive species is to remove the entire root.

“These plants girdle native trees and shrubs, and overshadow native plants on the forest floor, causing them to die,” he said. “The plants grow and spread quickly due to birds scattering their seeds. They are hearty plants that are difficult to remove and manage.”

Bobby Nice at work clearing invasive species at the Dunwoody Nature Center. (Special)

Plans are to complete the conservation project this spring, Nice said.

“I’ve learned more about nature during this project, and learned these invasive species will grow in between rocks for protection,” he said.

Nice also regularly fills bird feeders and builds bird houses. Nice seeks donations from friends as well as corporations, such as Lowe’s, who are willing to donate the materials needed to build the bird houses.

“It’s actually lots of fun. I’ve been working with my grandfather and have built bird houses for wrens and chickadees and possibly may build one for blue birds,” he said.

Nice is a Star-rank Boy Scout with the Northeast Georgia Council of Boy Scouts of America who said scouting has provided him with helpful skills.

“It is something fun I enjoy and I liked it and just kept with it,” he said. “Scouting gives me interactive skills and skills I will be able to use in the future.”

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.