Turtles at Simpson Lake get toasty, with aid from Albany Scout
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Turtles at Simpson Lake get toasty, with aid from Albany Scout

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Eighteen-year-old Andrew Bolen of Albany has been involved in Scouting since he was in eighth grade and had to complete a service project on his own to officially become an Eagle Scout. After conversations with city of Albany, he found the perfect project — turtle tanning.

They're not necessarily easy to spot. But if you stand on the bank of the lake at Simpson Park, you can spy, floating in the water, structures built by Bolen that provide the perfect basking spot for the Western Pond turtles that call First Lake home.

According to Emily Day, natural resource specialist for the city of Albany, the structures are part of a larger revamp in Simpson Park to facilitate the area's turtles. An area located just over the bank of First Lake is undergoing renovation to provide a nesting area — which requires minimum vegetation and flat gravel paths, Day said.

No city funds were used to construct the basking structures. Instead, Bolen sourced the material on his own, asking local lumber companies to donate material. Then he constructed the turtle tanning beds and loaded them up to be placed in First Lake.

And while Bolen and the city had a vague plan of how to install the structures, when the day came late last month, it took some quick thinking to make the plan a reality.

“We knew we had kayaks and rope,” Bolen said. Everything else was up in the air.

Day, who was on hand, noted that access to the lake is a standing issue. The plan revolved around loading the structures into kayaks and placing them in the lake.

“They had to tie the structures to the kayaks, use cinder blocks to weigh them down,” Day said. “It was more complicated than we thought it would be.”

In all, it took Bolen, Day and personnel from the Talking Water Gardens, the Calapooia Watershed Council, Ash Creek Forest Management and Willamette Restoration volunteers to set the basking structures in place. From start to finish, Bolen said it took about four and a half hours to complete the project.

It didn’t take the turtles that long to take advantage of their new amenity.

“Turtles were already taking in the sun on the structures before they were even finished installing," said Rick Barnett, parks and facilities management manager.

The Western Pond turtle is listed as sensitive-critical on Oregon’s list of sensitive species. The turtles need to bask in the sun to regulate their body temperature.

Bolen said that now the project is done and he’s earned his Eagle Scout designation, he plans to continue his studies at Oregon State University and look for more opportunities to volunteer.

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