by Mary Ann Lickteig
Eagle Scout projects are dotted all over Shelburne, and thanks to Shelburne Boy Scout Troop 602, four new ones are nearing completion.
• Nate Brangan rehabilitated and rebuilt a quarter mile of Clarke Trail in Shelburne Bay Park.
• Nathaniel Mick designed and coordinated the construction of four benches for Bay Park.
• Zach Loiter designed and coordinated the construction of a modular, portable stage for the Shelburne Veterans Monument Committee.
• Gerrit Pottmeyer wrote a successful grant proposal to get the town a flashing sign for the crosswalk across U.S. 7 at Church Street. It is expected to be installed next spring.
Eagle is the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America. One of the many requirements to attain the rank is to complete a service project that benefits a religious institution, a school or the community. For Shelburne’s Troop 602, projects commonly involve constructing something for the town, Scoutmaster Jim Brangan said. Among past projects: park bridges, a picnic pavilion in Davis Park, a tool shed and shelter at the dog park and a gazebo at the town beach.
The latest efforts bring each of the Scouts closer to their Eagle Scout rank, Brangan said. Zach just recently completed the process and the three others still have steps to complete. Each project was a learning experience, Brangan explained, and each offers some benefit to the community.
Green light for new traffic signal
Grant-writing was a different sort of project, but a safer crosswalk on U.S. 7, where the parade ground is on one side and the school and town offices are on the other, is a need Scouts have long recognized. They sell Christmas trees in the parade ground each year and cross the street to use restrooms in the town offices, Brangan said. “And I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had close calls with cars.”
Town Manager Joe Colangelo agrees. “I look out on that crossing all day long from my office, and I just kind of cringe.” The town manager was on board, but Gerrit, 15, from Shelburne, still needed to persuade the selectboard, which has to authorize grant applications. So, the Champlain Valley Union High School sophomore wrote a speech, made notecards and practiced for three weeks — in front of his family after dinner and in front of fellow Scouts after a meeting.
When the time came, he put on his Scout uniform, went to the selectboard meeting and gave the presentation, mindful of keeping it short lest anyone lose interest. “I must say it was kind of scary because you’re in front of several people, who are either going to completely turn you down or give you a round of applause for a good job,” Gerrit said. The proposed light, which would be identical to the one about 200 yards south, near Shelburne Museum, costs about $5,000.
After Gerrit finished, the board voted unanimously to apply for a 50-50 grant from the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Program, to cover half of the cost. “The grant program there is highly competitive,” Colangelo said. “It’s not a foregone conclusion that you’re going to get funded, so you have to write a good grant application, and it has to be compelling, and he did that.”
Gerrit had to write several paragraphs outlining the use and danger of the crosswalk, explaining why the upgrade is needed, and saying whom would benefit. He used a clicker to count pedestrians and estimates that he spent 96 hours at the crosswalk, gathering information. “During the weekend, on Saturdays, I would be out there clicking away to see who was out there during the farmers’ market and just during a normal weekend,” he said.
He enlisted a crossing guard to count on weekdays, when he had to go to school. The busiest time, he learned, was after school on Wednesdays, when more than 90 people an hour use the crosswalk, he said. Another observation he made: “Everybody wears a dark-colored clothing item,” making it hard for drivers to see them.
Gerrit included his own story in the application. Last winter, during the Scout Christmas tree sale, he and two other Scouts wanted to cross the street. A car stopped for them, and it got rear-ended.
He compiled all of the data, and the town submitted the application in July. “He made it easy for us,” Colangelo said. “He wrote it. He put it together. I think the only thing I did was hit the send button on the email.”
Last month, he learned that the town won the grant.
Drawing board to park bench
Like Gerrit, Nathaniel Mick learned to navigate municipal regulations when he pursued his project – building four park benches. Town officials proposed installation along the main recreation path in Shelburne Bay Park, where there was only one bench, toward the end. Parks and Recreation Director Betsy Cieplicki helped Nathaniel, 17, of Charlotte, apply for a permit.
The Champlain Valley Union High School senior, who designed the benches with input from his carpenter dad, works the old-fashioned way. “I don’t have a knack for designing on a computer,” Nathaniel said. “I did it all on grid paper with a straight edge and a pencil.”
To finance the project, he set up a booth at the farmer’s market in September, displayed a scale model, and asked for donations. Those contributions, plus money raised by his GoFundMe campaign totaled $300. A “surprise donation” of $150 from his grandparents got him to his goal. Rice Lumber sold him wood at a discount.
Each bench is 7 feet long and made of pressure-treated pine, “the cheapest and most enduring option that I had,” Nathaniel said. He and volunteers – mostly fellow Scouts – built the benches. They cut the wood, sanded it – that took two days – and sealed it with a combination of wood stain and polyurethane. Nathaniel was grateful for the help. “As any Eagle Scout would say, the volunteers really make the project.” Late last month, they hauled the finished benches into the park on a trailer pulled by a lawn mower. “At the end of our work day, we all sat around, admiring our hard work,” Nathaniel said.
Reviving an old trail
Fellow CVU senior Nate Brangan, 17, of Shelburne, rehabilitated and rerouted a section of another Shelburne Bay Park trail. He consulted with town officials to identify needs and asked the Shelburne Recreation Committee for feedback and permission. “He had a nice PowerPoint presentation he put on at one of our meetings,” Parks and Recreation Director Cieplicki said.
Following the officials’ advice, he targeted an eroding, quarter-mile section past the moorings on Clarke Trail, the primitive trail that runs along the lake. This fall, he led volunteers as they laid down gravel, installed new puncheons (wooden trail planks), laid chicken wire over other puncheons to add traction and cleared fallen trees. “My dad got to use his new chain saw,” said Nate, whose dad is Scoutmaster Jim Brangan.
Nate’s crew re-routed some sections, including a portion of the trail that ran over rock and got slippery in the winter and an eroded section running close to a cliff edge. In all, more than 50 volunteer hours were devoted to the project. “I learned how to manage people a little bit better,” Nate said.
The park projects are appreciated, Cieplicki said, because the parks budget isn’t big enough to cover all needed improvements. “I’ve already had several people comment to me already how thankful they are for the benches on the trail and how nice the trail work that Nate is doing was,” Cieplicki said. “They’re nice improvements and definitely needed.”
A stage to share
Zach Loiter helped the Shelburne Veterans Monument Committee get a much-needed new stage for its Memorial Day ceremony. “We used to use that old, beat-up trailer that the town of Shelburne owns,” said Bud Ockert, who chairs the veterans’ ceremonial subcommittee. Zach, an 18-year-old CVU senior from Shelburne, worked with a project advisor to design a modular 8-by-10-foot stage that sits 18 inches above the ground.
“It’s wonderful,” Ockert said. “It’s in five pieces, which makes it very easy to move.” It can be transported in the back of a pickup truck. “And it will hitch together quite nicely with the system that he has.” Zach used butterfly latches to ensure a tight connection.
“He did a very nice job,” Ockert said. And the veterans say it’s available for other groups who want to use it. The Champlain Mini Maker Faire already took advantage of the offer. And Zach got to see the stage in use at event at Shelburne Farms this fall. “It was great,” he said. He just advised users to “bring some shims if the ground is uneven.”