Scout's project to help disabled enjoy nature Manchester teen seeks Eagle award CENTRAL--Union Mills * Westminster * Sandymount * Finksburg

November 23, 1992|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff Writer

Mark Bray wanted his Eagle Scout project to be "something that would have some meaning to it."

Eighteen months after he made that decision, the 15-year-old Manchester resident is putting the finishing touches on a 750-foot concrete walkway that will bring nature to disabled visitors to the planned Bear Branch Nature Center near Union Mills. The center adjoins Hashawha Environmental Appreciation Center.

He had another reason for his choice of project. "My grandmother is disabled, and it would mean a lot to me if she could walk on it," Mark said.

Weather has delayed construction of footers, which must be installed before concrete can be poured, but Mark hopes to have the pathway completed before Thanksgiving.

He is also ready to submit his project to a committee of his Scout troop, Troop 665 of St. Bartholomew's Catholic Church in Manchester.

The committee will review the project to determine whether it merits Eagle ranking and make a recommendation to a regional council. The regional council sends its recommendation to the Boy Scouts of America for a decision.

The pathway will lead from the nature center's main building to a gazebo that overlooks the Hashawha grounds. An exhibit financed by the Soil Conservation Service that shows farming techniques is expected to be in place when the nature center opens in spring 1993.

"Basically, what Mark is doing is laying the foundation, setting up the groundwork so we can do the interpretation," said nature center Administrator Melinda P. Byrd.

There isn't much to see along the pathway now, but Ms. Byrd hopes to enlist volunteers to landscape, install a tracking area that will show animal footprints, put in an exhibit that will show Carroll County's relationship to Chesapeake Bay and plant garden beds.

The Carroll Garden Club is scheduled to put in plants that will attract wildlife, and boxes have been installed near the pathway in the hope that insect-eating purple martins will take up residence.

"It would take a long time for us to do it without volunteers, our priority being that we want to open the building for the general public," Ms. Byrd said.

"I don't want to say impossible, but it would be very difficult for us to do the work without volunteers."

Mark's original concept for the pathway was a 300-foot boardwalk, but he has learned that concrete would be easier and safer for disabled individuals to use. He studied guidelines from the Americans with Disabilities Act and solicited suggestions from youngsters he works with in the 4-H horseback riding program for the disabled.

He also raised $3,500 in donations from local businesses and community organizations to pay for the project.

Mark hoped to design the disabled-accessible pathway in a loop that would allow users to return to the main building without having to retrace their way. But the slope on one side of the building was just too steep, Ms. Byrd said.

"He had friends out here in wheelchairs trying to figure out the easiest way up the hill, but there was no way to do it without paving that entire hillside," Ms. Byrd said.

Mark's father, Bennett V. Bray Jr., supervised the project and helped set up rest areas along the pathway and level the ground. The county government graded the pathway site.

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