A Del Rio teen working to become an Eagle Scout has tackled a smelly situation along the San Felipe Creek.
Charlie Ayala, a member of Laughlin Air Force Base Troop 280, in mid-July directed a group that included fellow Scouts and his father, Del Rio businessman Carlos Ayala, in placing pet waste stations near the creek.
“We’re going to install six pet waste stations along the San Felipe Creekwalk,” Ayala said as he waited for his team of workers to arrive at the Dr. Alfredo Gutierrez Amphitheater on the morning of the project.
The first waste station was installed near the Blue Hole, a popular summer swimming spot just downstream of the U.S. Highway 90 Bridge over the creek.
“I’m trying to target the most populated locations, such as the Blue Hole, the amphitheater and the Tardy Dam,” Ayala said.
Ayala said he came up with the idea while visiting the creek.
“When I’ve walked around the creek, sometimes I see dog poop. It doesn’t smell good. It doesn’t look good,” Ayala said.
Charlie’s dad, Carlos Ayala, said he appreciates the hard work his son has done to get to this point in his Scouting career.
“Ever since he joined Cub Scouts, I remember us camping out, and from that time, it was hard to imagine that we would be here today doing this, because obviously to get to this point, it takes a lot of work, a lot of merit badges, campouts, experiences, but here we find ourselves, so, about a couple years ago, when we started thinking about this, even though this was just a goal then, we started thinking about what we could do to impact the community in a positive way,” Ayala said.
He said he and Charlie had participated in other Eagle Scout projects as helpers for the Eagle Scout candidate.
“I think that’s how the system works. You help when you’re younger, so when you get to that point, there will be help available for you,” he said.
“So Charlie thought how could he do something that would really help the community, and we kept thinking about it. This is one of the first ideas of many we thought about. We just didn’t know where to put them, where they would do the most good, have the most impact,” the elder Ayala said.
“We were tubing here a couple of times on the creek, and we decided to try and get approval to install them there,” he added.
The father and son team discussed their idea with the troop’s scoutmaster, Kat Rawald, and she warned them that getting approval for work along the creek might be tough.
“We started doing research and talking to city officials, including Alejandro Garcia, at the time the city’s public works director, and he said he would mention the idea to the city planner, Mrs. Janice Pokrant, and so he called me and told us it looked like it was something that could happen,” Ayala said.
Several months passed, and Charlie Ayala and his father participated in a creek cleanup, where they met Joe Joplin, a member of the city’s parks and recreation advisory board.
“We mentioned our idea to him, and he really liked the idea and asked us to put a proposal together and go before the parks advisory board for a decision,” Ayala said.
Charlie Ayala made the presentation, and the parks board endorsed the measure.
After fundraising efforts, the Ayalas were ready to get started.
Ayala said he is very proud of Charlie, who is the youngest of three boys.
“Our hope is that this project yields a cleaner San Felipe Creek and also an awareness that we’re responsible for our pets and our environment. We’ve got to take care of our spaces,” Ayala said.
Charlie Ayala has been in scouting for five years.
“Before Boy Scouts was Cub Scouts, and I learned about it and told my dad, ‘This looks interesting,’ and that’s how I joined Cub Scouts, which led to Boy Scouts,” Ayala said.
Ayala, who plays the trumpet as a member of his school band, said he enjoys playing video games.
Ayala will be entering the ninth grade later this month. Though he said he has no firm career plans yet, he said he might like to pursue a career as a pharmacist.
Born in San Antonio, Ayala moved to Del Rio with his parents as a child.
“I was raised here, and I love this place,” he said.
Ayala also thanked his project’s sponsors: The Bank & Trust, Maria and Abner Martinez, Carmen and Ruben Gutierrez, Silver Eagle Distributors and McDonalds. He also thanked the California company Zero Waste USA, which supplied the signs for the waste stations.