About 15 Boy Scouts from Fort Leonard Wood’s Troop 149 have spent the past nine months working with the Directorate of Public Works to maintain miles of a hiking trail behind the Pershing Community Center.
Adam Hilburgh, one of the group’s adult advisors, said the goal was to inspire camaraderie and conservation.
“Starting last February, before COVID-19, we worked with the DPW, Natural Resources personnel here,” he said. “We started maintaining the trail behind the Pershing club, and throughout the (pandemic), the Scouts have probably spent hundreds of hours marking them, clearing them and making them usable for folks.”
Hilburgh, whose son, Mason, is a member of Troop 149, said the work has been expansive.
“There’s a lot of things — it’s cutting down limbs, it’s clearing it of leaves, debris,” he said. “They’ve made a lot of the trail accessible. Before, it was (a) single path. They’ve widened it.”
But the restored trail has a little known history behind it; before the military acquired the land, students of a schoolhouse built in 1911 formed the trail by walking between their school and the farms where they lived.
“As part of one of their badges, (Scouts) had to work on a historical trail,” Hilburgh said. “We worked with DPW and found that this was one of those trails. So, they camped near it at Happy Hollow for a
Kurt Hauer, an eighth-grade Scout, said the project has been about protecting more than just the existing trail.
“It provides an opportunity for everyone to use and to enjoy the beautiful outdoors,” he said. “If people didn’t take care of the trails, others would make their own trails, and in the process, destroy nearby and possibly endangered vegetation and wildlife.”
Scouts said the trail behind PCC was difficult to hike before their efforts. Isaac Hallberg, Hauer’s fellow Scout, encouraged community members to enjoy the newly improved trail and the fort’s natural surroundings.
“The trails and wildlife should be taken care of because it offers those who work on the trails and those who walk them a chance at a healthy lifestyle,” Hallberg said.
Hilburgh said being outdoors — even if it was located just a stone’s throw from home — helped to alleviate some of the emotional toll Scouts sustained from social distancing.
“There’s no such thing as scouting without ‘outing,’” he said. “Especially when we first went to a virtual (setting) — March, April, May, June — some of the only times the kids would be interacting was with Scouts. They were really enjoying being out there and being together. It does build camaraderie; it does build social skills they may not be getting in school because of the pandemic.”
While the group intends to help its Scouts fulfill their desire to socialize, Hilburgh assured it is doing so safely.
“They keep their distance,” he said. “When they’re camping, they’re all in individual tents. And we’re very strict with all the measures that have been put out by Boy Scouts of America.”
Hilburgh said Troop 149 looks forward to continuing its work to improve trails around Fort Leonard Wood.