Scouts who soar

Scouts who soar

Head to most parks around the state — from small-town playgrounds to urban greenspace to metroparks — and you’ll often see something that’s been added or improved as the result of an Eagle Scout project. Using a combination of can-do spirit and hours of labor, Eagle Scouts have provided parks (and schools and municipalities and lots of other entities) with benefits such as animal habitats, walkways, footbridges, landscaping, shelter revamps, and much more. 

Often armed with wood, cement, and a variety of tools, along with fierce determination, members of Scouting BSA (formerly Boy Scouts of America) from across the country aim for the Eagle rank. Since 1911, when Eagle Scout became the organization’s highest level of achievement, only 4% of Scouts in the U.S. have earned the honor. Nine U.S. presidents have been involved in Scouting, but of them, only Gerald Ford rose to its highest rank.

Libby Greenbaum, Union County’s first female Eagle Scout, renovated the entrance to Marysville’s America Legion Post for her Eagle project.

Libby Greenbaum, Union County’s first female Eagle Scout, renovated the entrance to Marysville’s America Legion Post for her Eagle project.

Luke Steffes’ project in Scioto Audubon Metro Park still draws Monarch butterflies 10 years after its completion.
Alan Rosenbeck, assistant manager at Highbanks Metropark oversees numerous Eagle projects each year.
Anthony Steines created a digital map to aid Scouts as they place flags at veterans’ graves in Warren.

The path to Eagle Scout includes a rigorous set of requirements that must all be completed before the Scout turns 18: positions of troop leadership, a selection of required and optional learning on a wide variety of subjects (merit badges), and, most famously, completion of a project that benefits the community. 

Before his 18th birthday, Alan Rosenbeck, now assistant park manager at Highbanks Metropark between Columbus and Delaware, looked to Preservation Parks in Delaware County for his Eagle project. The wood duck boxes he built years ago in Char-Mar Park are still in use. Today, Scouts from around the region look to him for their own project support. 

“I have Eagle Scouts coming every year,” he says. “Scouts have built barred owl and flying squirrel boxes, taken on repairs, rebuilt structures, or upgraded landscaping.”

In 2020, Nishanth Kunchala of Troop 428 from Powell took on several Highbanks initiatives. “The more he did, the more he wanted to do.” By the time Kunchala was done, he, along with fellow Scouts and others, revamped a picnic shelter building, replaced picnic table boards, and installed ADA-accessible grills and a new brick patio base.

“Currently, we are developing a natural play station. Another Scout designed and mulched the trail leading to that project,” says Rosenbeck. The trail also curtails invasive species, which was the Scout’s original idea. Along with boosting park offerings, Rosenbeck sees Eagle projects as a way Scouts learn what’s possible.

Luke Steffens learned what was possible 10 years ago when his Eagle project transformed a nondescript patch of invasive weeds and dirt in Scioto Audubon Metro Park south of downtown Columbus into a riot of color — a native-species flower garden that serves as a monarch butterfly way station. “I’m glad I helped the park do its mission of attracting native wildlife,” Steffens says. The core of the garden’s pathway near the nature center is still intact, and the New England asters, coneflowers, and butterfly weeds continue to attract butterflies. 

Heather Williamson has been with the metroparks system for more than 20 years. “It’s a pleasure to watch how Scouts grow throughout the projects,” she says. At Rocky Fork, one of the parks she manages, Scout-made feeders offer birds a place to fuel up, and a new dog park shelter offers visitors a respite from the sun or rain. 

Anthony Steines, a member of Troop 101 in Warren, turned to technology for his Eagle project. One of the troop’s annual projects is to place flags on veterans’ graves in Warren’s Oakwood Cemetery. The historic cemetery, opened in 1848, is a peaceful place of leafy trees and graves that date to the Revolutionary War. Many of them, weathered over time, are difficult to read, and Scouts would have a difficult time each year finding which stones needed flags. So Steines created a map and website, with photos and descriptions, that allow both the troop and public at large to find those graves and honor those veterans. “By giving back to the community, you’re able to see what’s needed” and then fill that need as an Eagle project, says Matt McCracken, scoutmaster of Troop 101 and himself an Eagle Scout. 

Since girls were first allowed to join Scouting BSA in 2019, more than 31,000 girls have joined — including Libby Greenbaum, Union County’s first female Eagle Scout. Her father, Lanny, an Air Force veteran, inspired Libby to renovate the entrance of the American Legion Post in Marysville. She removed the ripped tarp and broken plexiglass that had covered the entrance and led a project to build a covered, wood-sided entryway. As part of American Legion Park, the building is next to the municipal pool and the walking path. Its fresh look shows off the community pride and the Eagle Scout’s can-do spirit. “I was very impressed with what she did,” says Mel Cantrell, the post commander. Greenbaum’s work “made a huge difference.” 

Notable Ohio Eagle Scouts

  • Astronaut Neil Armstrong earned his Eagle Scout award in 1947 as a member of Troop 14 in Wapakoneta.
  • U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown earned his Eagle in 1967 in Mansfield, in a ceremony that was attended by John Glenn.
  • Milton Caniff, the cartoonist famous for comic strips Terry and the Pirates and Steve Canyon, earned his Eagle while growing up in Hillsboro.