Riverhead Boy Scout builds bat houses along Greenway Trail for Eagle project

A 13-year, character-defining chapter in Jonathan Furio’s life has come to a close.

On Jan. 19, the Riverhead High School senior became an Eagle Scout, the highest rank a Boy or Girl Scout can attain. Jonathan, 18, is the middle child among three siblings, all of whom dedicated their formative years to Scouting. His older brother, Michael, now 21, made Eagle Scout four years ago, and his younger brother, Timothy, 15, is following suit.

The accomplishment is no easy feat. Fewer than 10% of 2.2 million Boy Scouts nationwide reach the rank, according to the Boy Scouts of America. Certification requires completion of a final project that takes months of planning and development and showcases a Scout’s leadership abilities and commitment to community. For Eagle Scout eligibility, the project and all accompanying paperwork, from planning proposals to final reports, must be submitted before a Scout’s 18th birthday.

“It’s been an emotional ride,” said Jonathan’s mother, Tammy Furio, who was a committee chair for 11 years with the Cub Scouts. “There’s been times things have been going really great and everything is wonderful, and there were times when things were very stressful and there were deadlines to meet or events Jonathan had to go to … But watching him grow from this little Cub Scout, this little tiger cub, all the way up is huge.”

Jonathan Furio built and installed eight bat houses along the Greenway Trail for his Eagle Scout project. (Courtesy photo)

For his final project, Jonathan decided to build eight bat houses to provide shelter to the creatures who help cut down on the mosquito population. After about 25 hours of research, Jonathon said he came up with a design and a location to install the bat houses along the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. 

“The bats like to be in more of an open area that has some trees around,” he said. “They don’t like a lot of noise and when I was on the Setauket side [of the trail], there was a lot more noise pollution, there’s houses close to the trail. But on the Port Jefferson side, you have a lot of trees, then a little field, and more trees again. The bats would like that setting.”

To execute his vision, Jonathan devised a four-station assembly line in his driveway: His father, Keith Furio, and another adult Scout leader cut wood with a circular saw at the first station while some of Jonathan’s fellow Scouts assembled the side boards, slanted roofs and mesh gutter guards before caulking and painting the assembled houses.

“Scouting is about leadership; the ultimate test of leadership is running this project,” Mr. Furio, a current scoutmaster, said. “And watching him do that and using those skills, it’s hard to put into words as a father to a son, but it’s pretty awesome watching him get it.” 

“You’re not supposed to be too hands-on with your project,” Jonathan explained. “They want the kids to do it, this way they can get the hours for community service, environmental service.”

Throughout his formative years, Jonathan ping-ponged through various extracurriculars. In addition to academics, he split his time between exploring his love of nature with the Scouts and his athletic aspirations, practicing martial arts from ages 10 to 16 and running track and cross country since seventh grade.

As a Scout, he went on two High Adventure trips, unique weeklong experiences that immerse Scouts in challenging environments. His first, at age 14, was a 60-mile hike through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in the Rockies, part of Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico.

Last summer, as a 17-year-old Life Scout — one level below Eagle Scout — Jonathan served as a crew leader on a High Adventure trip at the Boy Scout’s Sea Base in the Florida Keys. The experience sharpened his leadership skills and style, but perhaps more importantly, solidified his passion for nature and paved a clearer course for his future.

“You get to see all different aspects of nature down there and it really, really touched my heart,” he said. 

Observing the coral, estuaries and mangroves in Florida made things clear to him, and he has committed to studying marine biology at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. this fall.

Although he’ll be away at school, Jonathan will not forget the local Scouts. He plans to volunteer as a scoutmaster when he is home on breaks.

Before he begins his freshman year at NSU, he hopes to return to New Mexico for this year’s High Adventure trek through the Rockies, this time as a scoutmaster.

“I’ll definitely still be involved in Boy Scouts,” Jonathan said, “but now I’m an adult leader, and my kid chapter is closed.”