Eagle Scout Ladder Project
Eagle Scout Philip Dornuf Outside The Small Mammals Building
Eagle Scout Ladder Project

Eagle Scout Philip Dornuf coordinated a group to build more than a dozen ladders for the animals at the Zoo.

Walking inside the Small Mammals Building you may notice nearly every habitat now has a wooden ladder. Each one is carefully made from thick branches, giving it a natural look and feel. The ladders are a good way for the animals to move around their habitat, plus it makes them use different muscles and brain power. When local Boy Scout Philip Dornuf learned there was a need for these ladders, it was a perfect match. “When I was younger I would go to the Zoo pretty often, and I still enjoy going to this day,” says Dornuf. “I was drawn to this project because I both like the Small Mammals’ habitats and I was interested in building something.”

The Zoo’s Aviary Curator, Alex Waier, coordinates projects for Boy Scouts looking to earn their Eagle Scout ranking. It’s something he’s been doing for more than a decade. “I saw the opportunity to get some things for the Zoo and help kids achieve what they need to along the way,” says Waier. The ladder project started with Dornuf meeting with the Small Mammals supervisor to learn more about the animal needs. From there he got very specific measurements on how tall the ladders had to be and how far apart the steps (rungs) could be for the small animals. The final lesson was unexpected. “I learned about what woods are safe for animals,” says Dornuf. He ended up using pesticide-free maple branches and stainless steel screws. But trying to locate and wait for such specific wood to come in took a long time and was Dornuf’s biggest challenge.

Eagle Scout projects at the Zoo primarily revolve around making something special for the animals like the ladders, a hammock for a bear or platforms for goats to climb. But occasionally there is a project that will be just for the humans working in the Zoo. “I wanted to take on the challenge of building a new tool shed for the Zoo to replace the old one,” says Boy Scout Josh Levie. This structure across from the horse and donkey habitat is hard to miss. It stands more than 6 feet tall and is painted red. Inside, the Master Gardeners can store their shovels, rakes and other tools needed to tend to the butterfly and vegetable gardens outside the Dairy Store.

As part of the Eagle Scout project, each Boy Scout needs to raise money to pay for supplies, stick to deadlines and learn leadership skills by recruiting a team to help build the project. Dornuf and Levie both say their favorite part of their projects was coordinating a team for the build. “The leadership skills and discipline that scouting has taught me will hopefully help me in my career goals as well,” says Levie. The rewarding projects are also fulfilling for Waier. “One of the more rewarding things is to see these kids come out here for the initial drive around. They’re very shy, dad’s doing all the talking and then after a few meetings you can see their personality come out. And by the end, they’re speaking up, more confident and even joking around with me. It’s really nice to see these young adults just kind of blossom.”

Eagle Scout Josh Levie And Alex Waier Outside The New Tool Shed

Eagle Scout Josh Levie (right) stands with Alex Waier in front of the shed he helped build for his Eagle Scout project.