When Ruben “RJ” Flores officially became an Eagle Scout, his family decided to go all out on commemorative merchandise. 

To celebrate Flores achieving the Boys Scouts’ highest honor ahead of his 18th birthday, the family bought Eagle Scout hats, Eagle Scout keychains, Eagle Scout T-shirts, even Eagle Scout stickers for their trucks, said Flores’ father, also named Ruben.

“It’s a long time coming from him being a little boy to where we are now,” said Flores, who expressed pride about his son’s achievement during an interview at Leon Creek Greenway just south of the University of Texas at San Antonio. 

RJ Flores’ project involved cleaning up and blazing a stretch of dirt single-track trail along the greenway, where other Boy Scouts also are partnering with the City and local organizations to help improve a stretch of trails that’s quickly becoming a hotspot for volunteer conservation projects. 

The nonprofit South Texas Off-Road Mountain Bikers (STORM) is the driving force behind volunteer work along the greenway, with support from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department and funding from outdoor retailer REI. 

Flores’ Eagle Scout project involved building improvements on a 0.3-mile stretch of track known as Poison Spider Trail. With the assistance of STORM, Flores got permission for his project from the City, organized volunteers to improve the trail and clean up trash and tires from the site, and built and placed a bench for passersby to rest. He put up signs to help people navigate the trail, one of many crisscrossing pathways that wind through the greenway.

“I feel like nature is a very important part of the world, so I wanted to make sure that even on small trails, it still looks natural, kind of like a well-used game trail,” Flores said. 

Flores, 18, a member of Boy Scout Troop 940, said he got his love of nature from scouting, which he started as a Cub Scout in fifth grade. 

“When you’re in Scouts, you get this understanding and this love for where you are,” Flores said. “I feel like it’s one of those things where you’ve got to protect it for these other scouts for generations to come so they can also experience what you’ve experienced and see these amazing sights.”

Eagle Scout Ruben “RJ” Flores inspects a trail marker that was installed along the Poison Spider Trail.

A student at Winston Churchill High School, Flores said he’s considering studying at San Antonio College after graduation, with eventual plans to transfer to UTSA. He’s considering majors involving business and nature, he said. 

His project isn’t the only contribution Troop 940 is making to the Leon Creek Greenway. Alex Crockett, a 17-year-old who is homeschooled, is another troop member working on an Eagle Scout project in the area

Crockett’s section of dirt is called the Loop Trail, which also branches off and returns to the main trail corridor. He’s also putting in signs and a bench.

(from left) Joshua Greene, Ruben George Flores Sr., Ruben “RJ” Flores, and Alex Crockett sit for a photo on RJ’s Eagle Scout bench project along the Poison Spider Trail near UTSA.

“I thought, ‘Here’s something I can do that will benefit other people in the community that can go here,’” Crockett said. “It’ll greatly benefit the bikers and joggers out there.” 

Crockett said he wants to attain Eagle Scout after seeing his older brother achieve it and after learning about the scholarships and prestige associated with the accomplishment. He also sees it as the natural way to make good on all the time and effort he’s put into scouting. 

“Getting your Eagle Scout rank is not easy,” Crockett said. “It takes a lot of paperwork and determination.” 

In fact, it’s the paperwork, not the physical labor, that’s the most difficult part, both Flores and Crockett said. 

Josh Greene, 36, a former Eagle Scout who now volunteers with Troop 940, said the Eagle Scout process helps acquaint young men with “all the hassles of bureaucracy,” an important part of learning how to get things done in the adult world. Crockett said he’s about halfway done with his project but is confident he can finish it. In the end, the project is about leaving the area a little better than it was before. 

“it’s giving back to the community around that area and giving them something they can use and enjoy for a long time,” Crockett said. 

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.