Josh Kelly, 17, admitted he probably would have never fixed the trails and the platform behind Oswegatchie Elementary School if he wasn’t trying to become an Eagle Scout.
Good thing for the community, he is.
“If I wasn’t a Boy Scout, this would have never happened,” Kelly said, when asked the best part of being a Boy Scout. “And all of the other Eagle Scout projects for the last 100 years wouldn’t have happened because people don’t stop and think, ‘Well, I should take control and just do something to better the community.’ Nobody takes the time to do that, and this has forced me - because I want the award - to think, ‘I can better the community.’ That’s the best part.”
Kelly, over the past two months, fixed several overrun trails and a destroyed platform behind the Waterford elementary school. Of all the tasks he could have picked for his Eagle Scout project, why did he pick that one?
“I used to come out here quite a bit when it was in better shape, and I really like this place and I really like the environment,” Kelly said. “And I don’t want to see it trashed like it is sometimes and I don’t want to see it taken for granted.”
For years, the trails behind Oswegatchie Elementary School were often used, and there was a platform overlooking a swamp area that was popular. Teachers would occasionally go back there with students for nature walks and people would use them for recreational walking.
Then the school went under construction, and during that time the area was blocked off. The trails became overgrown and vandals destroyed the platform, presumably by burning holes through it.
Then Tropical Storm Irene came along and dropped several large trees across the trail. When Kelly took a walk back there a few months ago and saw the mess, he couldn’t believe it and wanted to fix it.
So, for his Eagle Scout project, he decided he would clear the trails and fix the platform. It began with a fundraiser, a pancake breakfast in September at the Waterford VFW, and despite only a $5 admission it garnered around $1,300 (many people donated more money).
Kelly took that money and bought wood and other supplies to fix the platform. Then he spent the last few weekends working with his friends, his father and his father’s friends first clearing the trails and then building the platform.
“I’m so happy with how it came out,” Kelly said. “It looks great. I’m happy that I did this, I think that there will be a new-found appreciation from the students – I hope there is – when they come out here and are able to do hands-on environmental stuff. And I know there are people who will come out here and use this regularly and will appreciate the work that I’ve done.”
Kelly is a senior at Waterford High School, and is hoping to go to Ithaca College in New York next year to study Opera and music. His musical talent was shown off to the community in May, where he wowed audiences (and Patch) with his sterling performance as Javert in WATERFORDrama’s Les Miserables.