BY JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
While other high school students are still snug in their beds on most summer mornings, Nick Breen has been out working in the woods for hours.
“He’s full of energy and we put that energy to good use,” said Cinda Stutzman, natural resources specialist with the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Department. “He’ll just show up some times and say, ‘I think the trails need trimmed.’”
Breen, a junior at Bowling Green High School, has been volunteering with the parks since sixth grade.
“Ever since his mom started dropping him off,” Stutzman said.
Breen now pedals his bicycle to Wintergarden Park in the mornings to see what work needs to be done.
“I wake up too early for my own good,” he said, adding that he does take time to have fun like other teens in the summer. “I do mope around, but I’ve got too much time. I’m here whenever I don’t have other things to do.”
As Breen ages, the projects he takes on get bigger. A couple weeks ago, he was given the job of clearing the way for a flagstone walkway in front of the Rotary Nature Center. He dug out the path, and placed the pieces of stone, which had been salvaged from old sidewalks in the city. The project took him three days.
Breen spends quite a bit of time ridding Wintergarden Park of invasive plant species. Earlier this month, he also dug 100 holes in the hard clay soil so milkweed could be planted.
He even built a fence around the observation platform in the prairie area of Wintergarden Park.
Breen has a soft spot for nature, planted by his parents, Dave Breen and Cindy Marso. “I’ve been hiking for a long time. My parents got me hiking since before I can remember.”
The teen prefers working in the less developed city parks. “I’ve always like the more natural parks.”
Breen hopes to turn that love for nature into a profession, possibly studying for a career in biology or conservation. “I’m not going to decide that yet,” he said.
The teen may not enjoy every job he is given, but that doesn’t mean he refuses to do the work. “There are lots of things I hate doing,” especially if it involves walking through thorny areas, he said. “But I do them anyway. I do whatever needs to be done.”