2018-05-03 / News

Godena carrying on family tradition

Teen working on Eagle Scout project at Conanicut Island Sanctuary
BY RYAN GIBBS


Eagle Scout candidate Nick Godena, far right, received help from his friends to complete habitat restoration at the Conanicut Island Sanctuary. Fellow Boy Scouts who are supporting Godena’s efforts include Alex Rutherford, from left, Parker DeLessio, Nate Bell, Callum Magarian, Zach Koehr and Callum Heffernan. 
PHOTO BY CHRIS POWELL Eagle Scout candidate Nick Godena, far right, received help from his friends to complete habitat restoration at the Conanicut Island Sanctuary. Fellow Boy Scouts who are supporting Godena’s efforts include Alex Rutherford, from left, Parker DeLessio, Nate Bell, Callum Magarian, Zach Koehr and Callum Heffernan. PHOTO BY CHRIS POWELL A Boy Scout whose family has left a mark on Jamestown’s agricultural history is continuing that legacy by restoring the habitat at the Conanicut Island Sanctuary.

Nicholas Godena has been leading the project at the eastern edge of Marsh Meadows to entice hikers, forest mammals and grassland birds to the municipal parcel. This is the final requirement for the 17-year-old Narragansett High School junior to be promoted to Eagle Scout.

“It’s pretty easy compared to what I usually do,” Godena said. “I’ve helped with so many Eagle projects in the past that I’ve kind of gotten used to it.”

Godena and his fellow Boy Scouts began work on Earth Day by clearing overgrowth from the sanctuary’s main field. For nearly four hours, the boys used lopping shears to remove brush until the field was completely clear, which is allowing Godena to focus on trails, birdhouses and the boardwalk.

Chris Powell, founding chairman of the local conservation commission, is supervising the project in his current role as the town’s trail steward. The day before the Scouts began, he used a chainsaw to cut the larger wooden branches and brambles. These were left on the ground for the teenage crew to gather and return to the woods as brush piles for wildlife.

While Powell expected a timely endeavor would follow his labor, Godena arrived with a worthy crew ready to work.

“I was amazed how much they got done,” Powell said. “Everybody worked. All I did was run around with a chainsaw and cut things they needed cut. They did all the clearing. They got an awful lot accomplished in one day.”

Godena was brainstorming ideas to earn the organization’s highest achievement when Powell mentioned the stewardship history of the sanctuary. Volunteers, he said, are the backbone. For example, the boardwalk that Godena will repair was originally installed by Troop 1 Scouts.

“I knew what magnitude they needed to do,” said Powell, who has supervised about 10 of these projects in the past. “It can’t be something like picking up trash and building one bench. It’s got to be a project worthy of an Eagle Scout.”

The project is designed to attract grassland birds, including bluebirds and meadowlarks, because these habitats are disappearing nationwide, Powell said.

To complete the project requirements, Godena was tasked with planning the work, fundraising, recruiting workers and supervising his team. Once those specifics were drafted, Godena received the go-ahead signatures from Powell, Eagle Scout advisor Jim Archibald, troop representative Robert Cassidy and the Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

When the sanctuary was purchased by the town in 1983, Powell wrote the original management plan for the property. It was established as a sanctuary for wildlife, but over the years it frequently has become overgrown because landscaping falls by the wayside.

“The idea was to restore it back to what it used to be for a wildlife habitat,” Powell said.

In addition to the fieldwork on Earth Day, Godena repainted the trail signs last week. Over the next month, he will install benches that will have his name inscribed on them. Jamestown Hardware is providing the pressure treated wood for the benches, which Godena will build himself. He believes this will attract more visitors.

“It just seemed like there was no seating area for people to sit down if they needed to,” Godena said.

He also will install four birdhouses designed to attract bluebirds around the perimeter of the sanctuary’s main field. As for the boardwalk, Godena’s crew will repair two storm-damaged boards while replacing rocks and wood that stabilize the walkway.

Godena estimates it will take three more weeks to complete the work. To further protect the sanctuary, he hopes future Eagle Scout candidates follow in his footsteps.

“The progress I’ve done is phenomenal,” he said. “The boys did a great job. It looked, at first, like you couldn’t get it done. It seemed like a lot, but we got eight boys to get the work done in the short amount of time.”

After Godena completes his work at the Conanicut Island Sanctuary, he will be interviewed by a board of review that will make a decision whether to promote him. When he turns 18 in September, he will no longer be a Scout in Troop 1, although he will continue mentoring Webelo Scouts.

Apart from the project, Godena had to earn 21 merit badges to satisfy the Eagle Scout requirements. He now has 24, but still wants to earn a few more so he can be eligible for an Eagle Palm. That is a special award Eagle Scouts can earn by completing an optional set of requirements.

His passion for the outdoors stretches back generations in his family, which founded Godena Farm on North Main Road. That property was acquired by the Conanicut Island Land Trust in 2009. In addition to the Scouts, Godena has continued his family’s long association with local farming through his membership in the Future Farmers of America. He is an officer in the Rhode Island branch of the organization, having been elected to the position of sentinel last month.

“It’s much different from Boy Scouts, but there’s also the same aspect of leadership and how things get done with teamwork,” he said.

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