2004-08-03
Becoming Eagle Scouts
Achieving top rank took teamwork, built leadership skills

THE NEWS-TIMES
 

These five Ridgefield Boy Scouts attained the level of Eagle Scout together. In the back row are James Toman, Drew Tewksbury, Jeffrey Ward. In the front row are Matthew Jessup and Jesse Kearns.
The News-Times/Susan Tuz  

These five Ridgefield Boy Scouts attained the level of Eagle Scout together. In the back row are James Toman, Drew Tewksbury, Jeffrey Ward. In the front row are Matthew Jessup and Jesse Kearns.

They've been fellow scouts since they were 8, joining the Cub Scouts at the same time.

Now five young men age 18, they achieved the level of Eagle Scout Sunday in a ceremony at Jesse Lee Memorial Church.

Joined by parents and friends, Matt Jessup, Jesse Kearns, Drew Tewksbury, James Toman and Jeff Ward attained a rank in the scouting roster that only 2 percent of all Boy Scouts reach.

"It took a lot to get here," Kearns, 18, said. "It's all the stuff that's come before our Eagle Scout projects that brought us here: getting the badges, preparing to be leaders in our adult lives."

"I almost consider us like brothers," Tewksbury added. "We're so close and we've been through so much together."

Side by side, these young men tore apart a rotted bridge, standing in the swamp it crossed, at Woodcock Nature Center. It was replaced with a new one, reclaiming the trail there. That was Toman's Eagle project.

Working in the heat of summer, they hauled a portable generator far into Sturges Park to run machinery for the building of a campsite lean-to Ward's Eagle project.

All five of the scouts' projects involved making outdoor camping and hiking areas in Ridgefield more accessible or more protected from misuse.

Jessup built an 80-foot oak fence at the top of the hill at Sturges Park, protecting the field there from vehicular traffic. The fence was completed with 25 feet of stone wall.

On completion of their tasks, these young men's parents paid for a camping and hiking trip in Grand Teton National Park out west: their last big trip together before leaving for their respective colleges.

"We've hiked so many times together, we're pretty efficient hikers at this point," Jessup said of the trip which was made without chaperones the way their parents told them they had reached maturity in their parents' eyes.

Eagle Scout projects require some 100 man-hours of work, with a crew of helpers organized and managed by the respective scout. All materials must either be acquired through donations or with money raised through fund-raisers. Approval for the project has to be received from the town, Parks & Recreation when applicable and the state, if wetlands are crossed.

Kearns built a dock at Lake Woodwing, across from Ridgebury Elementary School.

"I run out there often and have seen people fishing off of the dock and boats docked at it," Kearns noted, "so it's getting good use."

Tewksbury refurbished and marked hiking trails at Sturges Park. His project made it possible for the town park to book specific campsites at the park, since they are now clearly marked and accessible.

"You have to show that you have leadership skills," Kearns noted of the Eagle projects.

"At the beginning of our years in scouts, we learned from leaders. Now, at the end, we have become leaders ourselves," Jessup added. "Through our projects, we showed others what to do. It was like a final exam, and we passed it."

That is what the last 10 years in the scouts have been for these young men: a series of tests they met and passed with each other's support.

"We pushed each other to go for it," Tewksbury noted. "We wanted to stay in the loop, stay part of the group and that kept us going. There's a lot of pride and closure now that we've come this far."

These five Eagles Scout projects could not have been accomplished without the generous donations of Sturges Brothers Construction, Ridgefield Hardware, Parks and Recreation, and local contractor Julius Pepin, who supplied the tools used on all five projects.

 


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