Toms River Teen Completes Eagle Project In Cattus Park

Cattus Island Senior Park Manager Nikki Vernachio, at left, signs the paperwork for Toms River Boy Scout Grant Los, 14, as Freeholder Virginia Haines, the liaison to the county’s parks and recreation department, observes. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  TOM RIVER – Grant Los has been a busy 14-year-old. He’s been working hard in recent weeks to complete his Eagle Scout project and even a pandemic didn’t slow him down.

 The teenager completed his Eagle Project for the Ocean County Parks department refurbishing “The Rules Garden” which is a garden bed near the entrance of Cattus Island Park.

  He’s had to contend with the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic which has been an added challenge. He’s also had to face some material shortages as well.

  Grant’s project was set to begin in March but due to the pandemic, had to be put on hold due to the park closure. Ocean County Parks Assistant Director Mary Jane Bavais gave him special permission to begin his project.

  He and his father put up the retaining wall in just three days working in accordance with park evening hours.

  His mother April Los said she was excited for people to view it, including park officials. It was completed on July 9 which was the same day that the Cooper Environmental Center reopened for visitors.

  Grant is the second 14-year-old Eagle Scout in his troop’s history this month. He served as his troop’s senior patrol leader in 2019. He is also Boatswains Mate of Sea Scout ship 117 out of Tuckerton, and a recent graduate of Toms River Intermediate East.

  Earlier in the week he was busy putting in the landscaping plants. “Del’s Farm Market on Route 37 was generous enough to donate the plants and French & Parrello Associates paid for the stone block,” Grant’s mother added.

  On July 8 he was busy adding the mulch and putting the finishing touches on the garden bed. A day later he went out to the park in uniform to take some photos, and get the park director’s signature of approval.

  Grant was a Cub Scout at the age of 9 and crossed over into Boy Scouts at 11.

  “Originally, I was going to do a different project but this one was a lot simpler and everyone will look at it, the other project would have required custom-made stone. This one didn’t,” Grant said.

Dan Los and Jeff Los join Boy Scout Grant Los, 14, of Toms River with Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines, Grant’s mother April Los and Cattus Island Senior Park Manager Nikki Vernachio in front of Gant’s Eagle Scout project at Cattus Island Park, Toms River. (Photo provided by the Los Family)

  Grant described the condition of the prior structure saying, “it had a wood frame and was more of a two-part thing with a square outline. It didn’t have any plants and no one noticed it because it blended in with the forest so the wood had to be replaced because it was all rotted.”

  He replaced the frame with stone. “Getting the first level in was very complicated and it was the hardest part of the project.”

  The Scout noted he had gotten some help from his dad Jeff Los who was involved with scouting in his youth and also served as a scout leader. “We added the different layers of stone, mulch and then the plants.”

  Grant, who will be a 9th grader in September said, “I had started just before the quarantine and then the park closed but I was able to get it done. I was given a specific time for when I could come in and do this.”

  He was joined by parents and his younger brother Dan for the official christening of his project. Ocean County Freeholder Virginia Haines and Ocean County Public Affairs Director Donna Flynn came out for the event, joining Nikki Vernachio, the senior park manager.

  “I love it. It looks gorgeous,” Vernachio said.

  Grant said that he joined the Sea Scouts as it would allow him to extend his time in scouting and would provide him some enjoyable activities to learn from and take part in. “It will give me an opportunity to do scout events beyond the age of 18. I will be able to continue on until I am 21 and more sailing related activities.”

  Haines commended Grant for his work and said the project looked beautiful. Vernachio added that “the stone will last a lot longer than wood. The original structure was probably put in about 25 to 30 years ago. This makes for a very nice addition and a great legacy to the park.”