Eagle Scouts use their leadership projects to better Johnson City parks

Tony Casey • Nov 24, 2013 at 9:26 PM

You can find the fruits of 16-year-old Ronnie Zimmern’s labor atop the highest point above Johnson City. Zimmern used his Eagle Scout project to construct a bench and table on the Tip Top trail of Buffalo Mountain.

He and his fellow Boy Scout Troop 35 partners, Stephen Duncan, Ian Wilson, and Joe Klug, are all using their leadership projects to make Johnson City parks more accessible.

The Scouts’ efforts make the job of park naturalist program coordinator Connie Deegan, from Johnson City Parks and Recreation, much easier, as the gang of driven 16-year-olds took her recommendations that make a difference in the community.

Duncan, who goes to Science Hill, said it was Deegan’s idea to tackle his outdoor classroom project at Winged Deer Park. At one time, there had been a clearing with benches and a podium in the woods behind the disc golf course, but in recent years it completely grown over with poison ivy and brush. He took it upon himself, with the help of his fellow scouts, to spray and rid the area of the poison ivy, and mulch and clear the opening. Once that portion of the job was complete, Duncan and his crew used “work days” to rebuild the podium platform, which had been constructed with plywood, as well as benches.

Now, with weather-resistant materials in place, the outdoor classroom, upon which Duncan spent around 125 man-hours, comfortably seats around 60 people. Deegan said she’s eager and excited to use the newly improved space.

Around the trails surrounding the new outdoor classroom are new maps, provided by the work of Providence Academy student Wilson, who orchestrated a project to help show park users where they are. Wilson, who took it upon himself to lead a trailblazer effort, said people had been known to get lost in the woods there, and the map showed trails that no longer existed.

With 11 new signs and maps in place, Wilson recently completed his requirements to earn the title of Eagle Scout, with the ceremonial portion of the process as the only part ahead of him. He said he’s confident his project achieves what it set out to do. “You are here” markers on maps are often taken for granted, and having them properly marked with alleviate any future confusion.

“From what it looked like before, it’s unrecognizable,” Klug said of his friend’s project. “Before, there was vegetation up to my neck.”

Like Wilson, working in conjunction with Duncan’s outdoor classroom, Klug’s project will provide signage for the Buffalo Mountain trail all the way up to the top where Zimmern’s bench and table can be found. Klug, who is home schooled, hopes to have his project completed in the next few months, but intends to use signs that were donated by Snyder Signs to serve as mileage markers for hikers.

In completing each of the four projects, each Scout said how grueling the planning process was in completing each requirement. Because the Eagle Scout project requires Scouts to be a project manager, all bases must be covered and each step presented to a board of a review.

Once the project is completed, the Scout’s project workbook is presented and the Scout can be recommended as an Eagle Scout. Wilson was the only one of the four who had reached that level so far, but the other three were well on their way.

The new outdoor classroom provided an opportunity for Deegan to have two speakers, arborist David Sprinkle, and landscaper and father of Stephen Duncan, Mike, talk for a crowd in the new teaching space.

Staying with the Scout theme, Sprinkle shared information on how to recognize poison ivy and different species of trees, as well as to recommend different career options for those interested in working with trees.

“Other people work at a desk, or in an office,” Sprinkle said. “But my office is 50-60 feet up in a tree.”

He and Mike Duncan shared tips on how to care for the environment and to give trees the best chance of living a long life, which gives them the best chance of providing humans with oxygen, shelter, food and more.

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