RANDALL Mazzarino of Troop 737 knows more about bats than the average 14-year-old. The Clarksville resident built and installed bat houses at two Howard County parks for his Eagle Scout service project.
You might ask why anyone would want to build bat houses. The answer is simple: They attract bats, and bats eat insects - including mosquitoes.
"A single brown bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour," said Brenda Belensky of the Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks.
Belensky and Randall hope the project will help cut the local mosquito population.
Randall's bat houses are designed to shelter more than 150 bats each. Of the 10 varieties indigenous to our area, the little brown bat and the big brown bat were Randall's focus. He built two types of structures using plans provided by Bat Conservation International (BCI).
The houses were painted a solid brown suggested by Belensky. Randall said different colors are used in different areas.
A team of Scouts installed six of the bat houses on 12- to 16-foot-tall poles Saturday at Centennial Park. Nick Kennedy, Chris Black, Alex Bailey, Parker Reilly, Nik Sinha, Jason Wright and Larry Perko earned service hours by working with Randall on his project. Parents Terri Larsen and Lenny Black and Randall's mother, Vivian Mazzarino, also helped out.
Four other bat houses were installed at Schooley Mill Park in Highland on Aug. 31. Laurie, TJ, Kate and Brian McFee helped with that installation.
Belensky, who is the natural resources manager for Howard County, selected the sites and supervised the installations. She plans to share data about the project with BCI.
The houses were built at Tom Larsen's house in Dayton, with the help of other Scouts and adults from Randall's troop. Randall said 30 people have put in 289 hours on his project.
Now Randall will analyze the data he compiled. "You have to assess what your mistakes were and learn from those," his mother said.
Randall said he has gained a lot from the experience.
"I learned through this project that you have to know what you're talking about in order to be a leader," he said. "Otherwise, you won't make a good leader."
Coincidentally, the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a series of four new stamps with images of bats Friday. The photographs were taken by Merlin Tuttle, BCI's founder and president.
Though bats are a friendly presence now that mosquitoes evoke fears about the West Nile virus, rabies is still a concern.
According to BCI, the chance of contracting rabies is small, but bats should never be handled. And it's a good idea, the group says, to have dogs and cats vaccinated.
The big event
Sharon Siepel and her second-grade Girl Scout troop attended "The Big Event" cookie rally Saturday at the Howard County Fairgrounds.
Siepel, who lives in Fulton, was helped by co-leader Linda Alms and "first-aider" Rachelle Alexion. (A first-aider is trained to offer first aid on a Scout trip.)
Siepel can't say enough about the rally. "It was really fabulous," she said. Her troop spent four hours browsing through six barns filled with activities for the Scouts.
"The girls received something at every station," Siepel said, including stuffed animals, a pocket fan and a travel kit.
Triple Image, a teen-age girl band, performed and later signed autographs. The troop waited in line for almost an hour to get the coveted signatures. The Scouts also posed for pictures, painted plaster animals and learned about bicycle safety and the dangers of cigarettes.
At the end of the event, every girl had a chance to win a giant Teddy bear, a bicycle and a computer, among other prizes. It began to drizzle during the drawings, so Siepel and the girls began to walk back to their cars.
Just as the group reached the exit gate, Siepel's daughter, Natalie Harris, heard her name announced over the intercom. She turned and ran back, with Siepel and the rest of the troop trailing after her. They learned that Natalie had won two tickets to an Aaron Carter concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion that night.
"This was the dream of a lifetime for her," Siepel said, because Natalie is a big fan of Carter.
The Clarksville and Fulton girls - Amanda Oswald, Haley Bonhag, Sylviane Alexion, Christina and Cindy Alms, Olivia Lynch and Natalie - can't wait to go to the rally next year.
"It was beyond my wildest expectations," Siepel said.
Under the moon
Glen and Bev Salas will be hosts for Woodstack '02 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at the Backdoor Amphitheater, 7276 Mink Hollow Road, Highland. The outdoor music festival will feature performances by three Howard County bands: Tree Surgeons, KB Drive and Ilenda.
Take a blanket and a picnic supper and enjoy an evening in the forest for $10 per person and $5 per car. Carpooling is encouraged; off-site parking is unavailable. If it rains, the show will be canceled.
Information: 301-854-2856 or www.treetones.com.