By Kerri Dress
A typical day walking the dog led to an artistic rebirth of Beachwood Park for Girl Scout Troop 882 of Riviera Beach.
Debra Munyon describes her granddaughter, Natalie Conklin, as “very passionate about the environment.” The two enjoy walking their dogs through the park, and one day in September, an eyesore jumped out at 13-year-old Natalie. Graffiti was scribbled on the wall along the path that many fishers and dog walkers use.
Natalie has always been enthusiastic about the environment and wildlife. “Since I was little, I’ve been very into animals and even bugs,” Natalie said. Her devotion to respecting the environment sparked her idea to transform the graffiti wall into a historical mural.
Aside from Munyon and Conklin, three Girl Scout Troop 882 members — Billie Free, Natalie Long and Brooke Trumbauer, as well as their troop leader, Lisa Bourne — helped transform the wall into a beautiful display of art.
Two bright blue walls now showcase an outline of the Magothy River, a timeline of Beachwood Park’s history, fishermen and wildlife. The girls showed off their Maryland pride by including a small crab under the bridge. Conklin said she hopes it will “inspire others.”
The project took a total of 50 hours, enough for each girl to earn the Girl Scout Silver Award. The Silver Award is an achievement sixth- through eighth-grade Girl Scouts aspire to earn by completing a set amount of community service hours.
The spirited group began the project in May and completed it by June 1 with the help of donations from Lowes in Glen Burnie, Seaside Restaurant, Houlihan’s Restaurant and Magothy River Association (MRA).
While Bourne’s creative scouts were fortunate to have gained donations, they spent close to $200 out of pocket on the project, which totaled over $500.
Money was not the only hardship. The girls spent many hours doing grunt work: trash pickup, power washing and filling in holes in the walls with the guidance of Billie’s dad.
Bourne said the girls learned collaboration, patience and understanding of different skill levels. She joked that even with two scouts in performing arts programs, “they learned they didn’t like painting - not that much at least!”
“We had to use primer, paint everything twice and then seal it. We were lucky we didn’t have rain,” Bourne explained. “We would draw in chalk first, then go over it with paint so if we made a mistake we could erase it,” she said.
Bourne thinks the mural had a crucial part in the MRA’s decision to rebuild stairs and rehab benches in the park, noting the association was pleased with the completed project. “People want to go down there now,” Bourne said. “This might help them push it along.”
Nature and art alike are known for their influence on the human mind; the effects of this artistic enhancement has invited peace and respect back into the park environment. Dog walkers, picnickers and fishers in the community have multiplied since the creation of the mural. Beachwood Park now stands as a hallmark dating back to 1942 when it was an amusement park and sanctuary for African Americans during segregation.
This notable piece of artwork along the Magothy River is a great reminder of the lesson it taught Natalie Conklin, who said, “Not just adults can do things; kids can make a difference also.”