One of Oregon's oldest Boy Scouts of America troops is joining with other Ashland troops to celebrate 100 years of scouting by planting 100 trees in the Ashland Watershed.

One of Oregon's oldest Boy Scouts of America troops is joining with other Ashland troops to celebrate 100 years of scouting by planting 100 trees in the Ashland Watershed.

By some accounts, Ashland Boy Scout Troop 112 is the oldest continuously operating troop in the state.

"There's a debate on who's the oldest one between us and a troop in Salem," said Troop 112 Assistant Scout Master Jeff Jones. "Let's just say we're one of the oldest."

Founded in 1919, Troop 112 at more than 90 years old, nearly as old as the 100-year-old national organization itself. Troops across the country are marking the centennial with service projects where the numeral 100 figures prominently.

Ashland troops 112, 113 and Cub Scout Packs 112 and 117 chose to plant 100 ponderosa pine tree saplings in lower Siskiyou Mountain Park above the city. The land above Park Street is owned by the city and kept as a relatively wild area for conservation, education and low-impact recreation.

In 1973, the Hillview fire burned down a stand of trees in the area the scouts plan to replant, according to Ashland Parks Department Central Division Manager Jeff MacFarland. What grew back after the fire was a hardwood brush field — mainly manzanita, madrone and small oak. Under a 1992 city forest plan, the area is being brought back to a state more like its original condition: a mosaic of brush interspersed with stands of indigenous trees.

"It's an area we've been doing work in for many years," MacFarland said. "We're creating opening in the manzanita field and re-establishing some conifer stands."

The forest plan also calls for use of the area for education, so the scouts' work there is a perfect fit, according to MacFarland.

"Over the years many different groups have come," said MacFarland, who has been with the Parks Department for 27 years.

"It helps create an awareness in the community and it helps to get a group of people out there with that kind of manpower to get things like this done."

The ponderosa pine seedlings the scouts will plant are donated by the Bureau of Land Management. MacFarland also plans to put the scouts to work clearing out non-native and noxious vegetation from the area.

For the scouts, the work is a way to learn more about the environment while marking the 100th anniversary of the national organization. It also fulfills a commitment to community service and gives the kids a lasting reminder of what they've achieved together, according to Assistant Scoutmaster Jones.

"These boys will be able to come back to Ashland in 20, 40, 60 years and say, 'Hey, we planted these,'" Jones said.

Jones has been with the troop for five years and his son Julian is a Life Scout, one level below Eagle Scout, the highest level a scout can achieve. He praised the organization's ability to teach kids leadership and hands-on skills while providing a framework for fun.

"The main thing they get is experience and confidence," he said. "It gives boys a variety of things they can learn and take through life like the ideas of service and leadership. There are so few programs around where leadership is taught beginning at a very young age."

In Ashland, the scouts are best known for their annual Christmas Tree recycling program. For 26 years residents have been able to leave their trees on the curbs in front of their homes and know scouts are out combing through the city on a Saturday after the winter holidays to pick them up.

The young men also cut many trees for sale before the holidays, making some money while helping the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management clear out some overgrown areas of forest. Troop 112 goes on regular field trips and recently got to spend the night on a decommissioned nuclear submarine in Portland. On a less grand scale, boys earn merit badges by mastering a number of skills such as first aid, swimming, cooking, camping, tying knots, using a compass and performing service for their community.

Scouts, with their local sponsoring group the Ashland Lions Club, also help set up for the Feast of Will every year marking the opening of the outdoor season for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and the Lions Club barbecue in the park on July 4. Individual scouts perform service projects on their own throughout the year.

For information on local Boy Scouts programs, contact the Crater Lake Council of the Boy Scouts of America call 541-664-1444 or see the Web site craterlakecouncil.org.

Reach Murphy at 482-3456 ext. 222 or mmurphy@dailytidings.com.