A Littleton Eagle Scout became the first in the Denver area to be awarded a prestigious scouting medal on March 6.
Cole Hancock, a Heritage High School senior, received the William T. Hornaday Silver Medal, named for the renowned conservationist and founder of the National Zoo.
In order to earn the medal, Hancock undertook conservation projects that included planting new trees along the Littleton Crabapple Route, advocating in the state Legislature for the legalization of rooftop rainwater collection, building recycling bins for fishing line at two state parks and renovating a bird habitat.
“It was so much fun to set out and see the difference I could make in the community,” he said.
Hancock’s journey to earning the Hornaday Medal began when he was working on becoming an Eagle Scout four years ago. His project for that consisted of planting 78 new trees along the Crabapple Route — a seven-mile loop through the city lined with crabapple trees, roughly bordered by Prince and Elati streets on the west and east and on the north and south by Shepperd Avenue and Rangeview Drive. The project included planning and writing grant applications.
During this process, he found out about the Hornaday Medal, and learned that fewer than 1,200 of the awards have been given nationally since 1914.
Earning the award would require four additional conservation-based projects. He began by continuing the work he did on Littleton’s crabapple trees, planting an additional 30 and counting all of the nearly 7,000 of the trees in the city.
Hancock then leveraged his position on the Colorado Youth Advisory Council to advocate for water conservation legislation, culminating in the passage last year of House Bill 1005, which cleared the way for homeowners to collect rainwater in rooftop barrels.
Hancock’s third project was spurred by his love of fishing and problems he noticed with wads of fishing line strewn across the ground at South Platte Park in Littleton and Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Jefferson County. He and other Scouts built and installed monofilament recycling containers at the parks to prevent birds and marine animals from becoming entangled in the lines.
His fourth and final project was to remove invasive weed species and build a stone pathway at a bird habitat garden for the Audubon Society of Greater Denver.
Hancock’s adviser on his medal projects, Bill Williams of the Boy Scouts of America Denver Area Council, said that between his Eagle Scout and the Hornaday projects, Hancock had probably contributed 1,500 hours of service to the community.
“This program was created to recognize those who have made significant contributions to conservation,” Williams said.
U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, who attended Hancock’s medal ceremony at Ascension Lutheran Church in Littleton, lauded Hancock and the other Scouts present.
“I feel optimistic about America when I’m with you,” he said.
Hancock, who will attend a dual-degree program in international studies and business at the University of Pennsylvania next year, became the third Coloradan to be awarded the Hornaday Medal since its inception, and the first in the Denver Area Council.
“It was a great opportunity to test my expertise in different areas of conservation,” Hancock said.