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Boy Scout Troop 1564 recycles 730 holiday trees

The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at the end of the year goes back several millennia, and for thousands of years people have been asking one important question: What do you do with the darn thing after the holidays?

The Bainbridge Island Boy Scout Troop 1564 has answered that age-old question with a tradition of its own: recycle it.

For 15 years, almost as long as the troop has been in existence, it has offered islanders a no-hassle way to dispose of the last vestige of the holiday season. “Keep your car clean and the island green” goes the slogan.

“It’s a great opportunity and the community strongly supports it,” said Van Badzik, who has organized the event for the last five years.

His first year, Badzik thought collecting 350 trees was a challenge, but this year the troop collected a whopping 730 trees – that’s roughly 8 percent of the island’s households – all in one day.

As the troop’s sole fundraiser, the “treecycle” operation collects trees at curbside for $10, and turns them into mulch. On Bainbridge Island the term “curbside” doesn’t always apply and Badzik said there are times when treecyclers have driven a truck and trailer down one of the island’s “little roads” only to find there’s no good place to turn around.

Then there’s the unfriendly dogs, the “monster trees – 30-40-foot trees” which have to be cut on site in order to fit in the truck.  Occasionally there’s a no show.

Troop leader Dan Bacon said once in a while you get the “lady in a robe frantically waving out the window while she’s doing this,” he said, making a twirling motion as if unwinding lights.

One customer in Port Madison asked if they could drop 30 or so trees off at her place since she’s using them to line the perimeter of her property as a natural barrier against deer.

To say the project is a logistical challenge is an understatement and to the rescue this year came – well, the webguy. He was able to convert the customer addresses to Google maps, providing drivers of the six or so smaller trucks with a route that had dots on it. Before, all they had was a list of addresses to go by. Obviously webguy is working on his IT patch.

The smaller “feeder” trucks collect 30 to 40 trees, depending on how well they’ve been watered. Bacon said the well-cared for trees tend to weigh a little more than their brown, neglected counterparts. The small trucks drop off trees at pickup points around the island. A few large trucks haul them to the chipping station set up at the American Legion Hall, which is the troop’s sponsor.

Waag’s Tree Service has chipped the trees on site for years, but the volume has grown such that they’ve had to call in reinforcements the past two years. Waag’s offers the mulch to the Bainbridge Island Metro Park and Recreation District and uses the rest on landscaping projects.

The scouts have been active spreading that mulch, too, for a path behind Blakely Elementary School and the Fort Ward waterfront trail. They’ve also been involved in building kiosks on the island, at Battlepoint Park and the Hidden Cove Ballfield, for instance.

As a fundraiser for the troop, proceeds pay for camping equipment, uniforms, service projects and such.

The troop shares the holiday revenue with troop 1565, which raises its funds by selling the fresh trees in a lot across from Ace Hardware each year.

Troop 1564 is a boy-run troop. Boy leaders plan and execute their own program, with guidance and support from trained adult leaders, many of whom are Eagle Scouts. New Scouts begin with smaller jobs and later are given more responsible positions as their skills and knowledge progress.

Meetings are from 7-8:30 p.m. Mondays at the American Legion Hall, except for holidays and Mondays following a troop outing. The focus here is working on rank advancement, merit badge classes, planning for upcoming outings, building something and sharing good times.

For more information about the troop and the fundraising project, visit www.treerecycle.net.

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