Destin Eagle Scout Spencer MacKenzie makes borrow boxes for state park and earns state award
After walking the beaches and seeing toys and plastics left behind, Destin teenager Spencer MacKenzie came up with an idea that garnered him state recognition.
MacKenzie, 17, recently received the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award for Resource Management from Florida State Parks.
MacKenzie, as part of an Eagle Scout project, designed and built five “borrow boxes” that he gave to Henderson Beach State Park in December 2020.
“I think he did a great job designing the signage and coming up with the bins — made them in such a way that they are almost dummy proof — you can’t allocate it for anything else,” said Evan Waters, park services specialist at Henderson Beach State Park.
Each of the boxes, which are located along the five boardwalks at the park, have signs that read “Need a toy — take a toy” and “Have a toy — leave a toy.”
The idea behind the boxes was to promote reuse and recycling of beach toys, chairs, umbrellas and boogie boards.
“If (children) are done with a toy, they can drop it off or they can pick one up to play with, and then put it back,” MacKenzie said.
Waters said the boxes are working really well.
“Toys have actually been making it in there. People are doing pretty good about using them … but the true test will be the summer,” Waters said.
The park specialist said he has noticed people coming in who obviously are just visiting for the weekend. And when they leave for the day, parents have encouraged their children to leave the toys in the boxes for the next visitor.
“I’ve seen where they sit down and talk to them and say wouldn’t it be nice for other little kids to have beach toys,” Waters said. “It gives parents a chance to teach their children about sharing.”
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MacKenzie started in scouting as a Cub Scout at Tiger rank and has worked his way up to Eagle Scout.
“The best thing about Scouts is the campouts,” said MacKenzie, who is part of Troop 504 in Destin.
MacKenzie built the borrow boxes as part of a project for Eagle Scouts.
“Some kids just throw up a project on the fly but he actually had been planning it over a year and had been in contact with me … sharing his insights and he came up with the idea on his own that could be beneficial to the park,” Waters said.
“He worked with his troop to build them. He totally took the initiative," he added. “It’s great when we have people in our communities that help with the state parks."
MacKenzie said the recognition from park system officials was unexpected, “but I’m gladly happy to take that award because anything I can use for college, I’d love to have.”
MacKenzie is a junior at Fort Walton Beach High School where he is on the football, wrestling, weightlifting and track teams.
After graduation next year, MacKenzie said he hopes to attend Texas A&M or the University of Florida and study marine biology.