Scout hopes 'Rails to Trails' work at park leads to Eagle rank

December 10, 1993|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

Fifteen-year-old Shaun McLellan of Mount Airy has spent his weekends for the past six weeks clearing weeds and trash from the woods at Watkins Park.

Shaun's efforts are part of the town's "Rails to Trails" project, a plan to convert a section of the original B&O railroad line in downtown Mount Airy into a recreation trail.

But the trail-clearing has another purpose.

It will help Shaun to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in scouting.

After weeks of removing overgrown brush and dumped items from the trail, including tires and roofing material, Shaun said he feels good about the work he's done.

"I'm about done; we're so close to it," he said.

But his first look at the work ahead of him was a bit intimidating.

"When I first saw it, I said, 'Oh, man, this is going to be tough,' " Shaun said. "You couldn't even see through it."

Town planner Teresa M. Bamberger, who developed the "Rails to Trails" plan, said she's encouraged by the headway Shaun has made.

"The work he's done has really made the area look much nicer," she said.

The "Rails to Trails" project, as described in the Mount Airy Master Plan, is an attempt to integrate the old B&O railroad bed with existing development and natural surroundings.

The trail will provide scenic routes for walkers and hikers.

The Mount Airy train station is designated as the center of the trail, which will extend to the north, south, east and west.

Shaun worked on the proposed eastern section of the trail, which will run along a two-mile section of the railroad bed and continue to Watkins Park.

Lifetime Mount Airy resident Tom Ogle, who has been involved in local scout activities for years, suggested to Shaun that working on the trail would be a good Eagle Scout project.

Shaun is already a Life Scout.

Eagle Scout candidates are required to design a project that benefits the community and demonstrates management and leadership skills, Mr. Ogle said.

Mr. Ogle, a Montgomery County environmental planner, strongly

supports the "Rails to Trails" project for historical and environmental reasons.

"This may sound a little hokey, but there's a certain heritage associated with the railroad," said Mr. Ogle, 48.

"The railroad made Mount Airy a community and still can make it a community."

Shaun cleared a 2,500-foot section of the trail near the railroad bed and restored a nearby stream that had stopped flowing because of accumulated sediment from surrounding developments.

Shaun, who belongs to scout Troop 460 in Mount Airy, recruited other scouts to work with him on the project, including Will Saxton, who came for every work session.

A scout since age 8, Shaun says he's gained a lot from his years in scouting.

"They teach you a lot of general things, like how to act around older people. You learn some survival skills and history when you're hiking," Shaun said. "It's pretty fun."

He hopes to finish the project tomorrow.

Anyone interested in giving Shaun a hand between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. should call him at 301-829-9057.

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