FONTANA — A community of dog lovers without enough plastic bags is the problem.
Jocelyn Arnold has found the solution.
The 17-year-old Girl Scout has designed and installed a network of dog waste disposal stations as her Gold Award project — the equivalent of an Eagle Scout project for Boy Scouts.
Arnold, a senior at Big Foot High School, said she saw too many people leaving their dog waste behind.
When she did some research, she learned that dog piles not only are messy and unpleasant, they can become unhealthy and can threaten water quality as a form of pollution.
So she designed her dog waste disposal station and erected 10 of them at popular dog-walking spots throughout the community.
Each station is equipped with an informational display about the health risks of unattended dog waste, along with a dispenser of plastic bags so that dog owners can clean up after their four-legged friends.
“I hope that a lot of people use it, and all of my work has paid off,” Arnold said. “Hopefully it can help the environment.”
The effort will earn Arnold her Gold Award — the highest achievement possible in Girl Scouts — and it will help Fontana residents keep their parks, trails and nature sites clean.
Village officials helped locate the dog waste stations, and business owners donated a combined $2,000 to fund the endeavor.
Kathie Perkins, owner of the Fontana Home home decor outlet, said she was impressed that Arnold showed such initiative and also that she came up with such a clever public improvement project.
“I think it’s a brilliant idea,” Perkins said.
The achievement represents the capstone of a Girl Scout career for Arnold that began when she was just four years old.
Her mother and troop leader, Ginger Leyda, said many people do not even realize that Girl Scouts can do public improvement projects at the same level as boys who are seeking their Eagle Scout honors.
Leyda hopes her daughter’s reaching the Gold Award level will inspire other girls to get involved in their community and assert themselves as change-makers.
“Look — this young person can make a difference in the community,” Leyda said of her daughter. “She did this.”
The project began when schools were closed last spring because of the coronavirus pandemic.
At school, Arnold is an overachiever who plays on the Big Foot softball team, plays trumpet in the jazz band, and is president of the student council. But at home, she found extra time on her hands, so she immersed herself in the idea that dog waste need not be such a nuisance.
As a member of Girl Scout Troop 3273, she pitched the idea of waste disposal stations as a Gold Award project. The proposal won strong support, and her fellow troop members agreed to help.
Arnold and her family live in Williams Bay, but she decided to focus her efforts on Fontana because that village seems to draw more visitors and have more of a dog management problem.
Arnold also works at the Blue Heaven Ice Cream shop in Fontana. When she searched for a project adviser to help with her Gold Award effort — a requirement in the process — she found Blue Heaven owner Suzy Brady eager to step up.
Brady said she owns a dog herself, and she agreed that dog waste cleanup has been a widespread issue in Fontana.
“I thought it was a great idea,” Brady said of Arnold’s proposal. “And it was hugely needed.”
After finding business sponsors, Arnold set out to realize her vision by ordering plastic bags and dispensers from a supplier. She then designed the message and ordered signs. And she engaged Fontana village officials in a plan to locate the disposal stations.
With help from the village, she found spots in Reid Park, the Duck Pond Recreation Area, the Lake Shore Path and other recreational trails and favorite dog-walking sites.
Each site is equipped with 200 plastic bags, and is refillable.
To install the 10 disposal stations, Arnold got a helping hand from her fellow scouts, family members and other friends. The process was completed in early September.
Village public works director Kevin Day said Arnold’s ambitious project will serve a useful public purpose in a community with a large dog population.
Day said he also was impressed that young people would devise such a smart problem-solving approach.
“It’s good they’re thinking about the environment,” he added.
Arnold, who plans to attend college and study business management, has enlisted the Big Foot student council to maintain the dog waste stations after she is gone.
The experience of designing and installing the environmentally conscious public improvement in Fontana, she said, will serve her well as she considers options for a career in business.
“I enjoyed doing all of it,” she said. “I’m definitely going to take the skills I learned here into a career.”
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