By Michael Stewart / Executive Editor
A major landscape project at Merrehope this weekend marked the culmination of four years of work for Lamar School 10th grader Richard Covington.
Covington, 15, directed the work of about 10 volunteers at Merrehope for his leadership project with the Boy Scouts of America to earn the organization's highest rank of Eagle Scout.
Fewer than four boys out of 100 who join the Boy Scouts achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, said Scout Master Steve Corey, who leads Troop 9, of which Covington is a member.
"Most parents think it is sprint," Corey said of the effort it takes to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. "It is a marathon. It takes a long time."
At a minimum, Corey said, a scout must earn 21 merit badges, serve in leadership roles within a troop, perform service hours and master a multitude of scout skills along the way.
"It is a lot of work," Covington said of the effort. "It has been worth it. You learn a lot of skills (in the Boy Scouts) and I have made a lot of friends."
Members of the Boy Scouts and the Dusty Social Service Club were busy Saturday planting trees and bushes to create a garden enclosed by a hedge at Merrehope, one of Meridian's only remaining antebellum homes, which is open for tours.
Wielding pickaxes, shovels and posthole diggers, the group busted up grass and exposed roots to get at the soil underneath.
To meet requirements for the Eagle Scout leadership project, Covington planned and directed the work and sought out volunteers. In addition, he lined up donations and sponsors for the project.
The project had to benefit a nonprofit agency, such as Merrehope, which is located in Meridian on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Tim's Stump Grinding ground down exposed tree trunks and both Lowe's Home Improvement of Meridian and Lauderdale County Farm Supply provided materials — all free of charge.
Covington's parents, Andrew and Diana Covington, also helped out with the project.
"I am very proud of him," Diana Covington said of her son's effort to obtain the Eagle Scout ranking. "He has worked very hard. "
Richard Covington is the first member of Troop 9 to earn the rank of Eagle Scout this year.
"It has been fun watching him grow up over the last handful of years," Corey said.