5 teens revamp park, earn Eagle Scout
By Stephanie Taylor Ferriell, Senior Staff Writer, [email protected]
When a Boy Scout achieves the rank of Eagle, Scouting’s highest honor, it’s a major accomplishment. When five young men from a single troop — one of the smallest in the region — do it, it’s even more impressive.
That’s exactly what five Crawford County teenagers recently accomplished. The five, members of Troop 161, chartered at Lincoln Hills United Methodist Church, completely revamped the Leavenworth Roadside Park, a major undertaking that required hours of planning, fundraising and, most of all, old-fashioned hard work.
The group includes 16-year-old triplets Philip, Rodney and Zenor McClure, along with two 15-year-olds, Michael Meyer and Dominick Montgomery.
The Leavenworth Roadside Park has been enjoyed by children for decades. Becky McClure recalls bringing her three boys there to play when they were youngsters. As time passed, however, the park deteriorated. The old play set was broken, the benches worn and there was no fence separating the park from S.R 62 West at the bottom of the hill.
Zenor McClure said it was he and his brothers’ childhood memories that sparked the idea for the project.
“We were driving by one day, thinking of a project, and saw it on the hill,” he said. “We remembered all the good times we had here.”
The boys discussed the idea with the other potential Eagle Scouts and leaders. They realized the park had the potential to encompass projects for each of them.
Zenor McClure was in charge of a new swing and play set. Rodney McClure installed a stair railing, two benches and four trash cans. Philip McClure enhanced the property by setting a flagpole. Montgomery put up a fence to enhance the park’s safety. Meyer hung a bird box. The bulk of his project took place at Ferdinand State Forest, where he installed six each of bird, bat and duck boxes.
When the boys approached the Leavenworth Town Council with their idea, the Scouts were pleasantly surprised to learn the town had a park fund. They were able to use that money and also raised additional funding to cover expenses for new equipment and needed materials.
Council president Herschel Smith said the park was in need of attention and the council was glad to see the Scouts step up to revamp it.
Planning was completed early in 2020 and, by March, the Scouts were ready to get started. The COVID-19 pandemic actually helped them. With the park closed to the public, the boys were able to work safely and without interruption.
“We didn’t have to worry about people being out here, so that benefited us,” explained Scout leader Sheila Montgomery.
The boys dedicated at least 130 hours to upgrading the park during a five-month period.
A major component of Scouting is exploring different career paths and developing practical knowledge and skills. The park project led the boys to a realization: a career working with concrete is not in their futures.
“Pouring the concrete for the benches was the most challenging part,” said Rodney McClure.
They had to haul the 80-pound bags up a hill to the site, then mix it, “which was difficult,” noted Rodney.
His brother, Zenor, needed many bags of concrete in placing the swings and play set.
“All throughout the summer, we would dig holes, pour concrete and wait for it to dry,” he said.
The triplets’ father, Shawn McClure, joked that the boys now know how to work with concrete, and they don’t want to do it anymore.
“Now I know I don’t want to do concrete,” confirmed Rodney.
In addition to new playground equipment, visitors can now more easily traverse the uneven steps leading to the park by utilizing the handrail Rodney McClure installed.
He also put in four trash cans, and the Scouts are hopeful visitors will take better care of the improved park. The Scouts spent several hours clearing accumulated trash from the park before they started their work.
After completing and meticulously documenting their work, the triplets presented their project to the Eagle Scout board of review Nov. 17. Meyer and Montgomery made their presentation Nov. 14. They were officially named Eagle Scouts in a later ceremony.
“Five Eagles out of the same troop,” said Becky McClure. “It’s amazing, especially with a troop as small as we are. We’re proud.”
The five boys all joined Scouts as Webelos when they were in elementary school.
Montgomery said when a Scouting representative visited his school, “he said something about shooting guns, and I was immediately interested.”
Learning about kayaking and archery also piqued his interest.
Joining when he was 9, Montgomery said he’s gained a lot of practical knowledge and learned how to safely engage in outdoor activities.
He said a fence was needed at the park to separate it from the highway and to catch stray balls.
“Safety is a big reason,” he said.
Meyer joined Boy Scouts as a fifth grader.
“I’ve learned basic survival skills, gun safety, knife safety, first aid, how to be a decent human being,” he said.
Described by his parents and leader as initially being very shy and quiet, they said Scouting has boosted his confidence.
Zenor McClure said he’s benefited in similar ways.
“It’s taught me a lot of stuff and given me a leg up on life,” said the Scout, who joined with his brothers in fifth grade.
He cited leadership, first aid, communication and citizenship among the things he’s learned.
Philip McClure said he has a sense of pride at the accomplishment he and his fellow Scouts have achieved.
“It means I’ve done stuff a lot of people haven’t done,” he said. “I put the work into it. I got back what I put in.”
Troop 161 is tiny; currently just seven boys in all.
“I need some boys to join and keep it going and parents to get involved,” said Shelia Montgomery, who is in her second stint as a leader.
Dominick is her grandson; years ago she was a leader when her son joined Scouts. “The boys will have fun,” she promises.
Montgomery said the completed park rehab has impressed many. It’s still sinking in her for.
“It’s amazing to a lot of people that they achieved it, but, for me, I was just trying to get them there,” she said.
And that was a team effort, said the boys’ parents.
“There comes a point when any boy has said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’,” said Becky McClure, referring to those working toward Eagle Scout. “I looked at them collectively and said, ‘No’.”
With a pep talk, the group took a deep breath and carried on, achieving their goal. While becoming Eagle Scout was their purpose and one that will likely positively impact them for years to come, the real reward is seeing the park in use.
“We were driving down the road after we had first put it in and there were some kids helping a little one up the steps,” said Shawn McClure. “I said, ‘Boys, there’s the fruits of your labor.’ I almost teared up.”