CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — A pair of Senior Girl Scouts on Saturday cut the ribbon on a project that was two years in the making and designed for the whole community’s enjoyment.
Emily Strife, 14, and Julia Montesano, 13, of Troop 2678, opened their Fairy and Gnome Scavenger Hunt in Hays Nature Park over the weekend to resounding approvals and words of high praise for its creativity. The teens worked on the project to earn their Girl Scout Cadette Silver Award.
The scavenger hunt leads those who wish to participate along a half-mile looping trail in the small pocket park off Moe Road. Using one of the scavenger hunt brochures, a participant reads each of the eight clues in order and follows the trail looking for the fairy and gnome houses built by the scouts.
The first thing one must remember however is that fairies and gnomes are small creatures and consequently their “houses” will be small also.
After walking along the trail and finding all of the homes the visitor is brought to the fairy and gnome village, a collection of the small houses that the girls built and decorated.
“The idea started with us trying to find ways to get kids outside enjoying nature and away from their iPads and cell phones,” Strife said. “A couple years ago, my mom and I went on a walk along a trail and saw where someone had built a few fairy houses and that gave us a good idea for the project.”
“We came up with the idea of a scavenger hunt for the smaller kids,” Montesano added.
Two requirements for the Silver Award are that the project is sustainable; there must be 50 hours of work put in on it, and it must impact the community. The girls added their creativity by making it a scavenger hunt and seeing that the houses were durable so they could withstand high winds and torrents of rain.
“When we go to Girl Scout summer camp a lot of the girls make fairy houses, but they make them out of sticks,” Strife said. “Because ours had to be sustainable, we used more durable material like terracotta pots and plastic water bottles filled with sand.”
Before they could start planning or building their project Strife and Montesano had to get a number of approvals, including the Girl Scouts Project Committee as well as the Stony Creek Park District which manages the park.
“Then there was a lot of planning, getting the supplies, making the houses, finding spots for them on the trail, creating the clues, and designing and making the brochures,” Strife said.
Park District Chairman Brian Eastman was at the opening and said the board of directors was very supportive of the Scouts’ project.
Also attending the ribbon cutting were state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, Town Supervisor Philip Barrett, Town Council members Lynda Walowit and Amy Standarert, and Pete Bardunias, the president and CEO of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County.
“We’re happy to be here this morning because we appreciate that the Scouts looking at the business community as a resource not only for projects like this one, but also to help young people as they consider careers,” he said. “When I’m out and about I always hear people referring to Clifton Park as the place where they have all those malls. Well, there’s a lot more here than malls; just look at what we have here.”
Barrett couldn’t have agreed more.
“We’ve added a lot of trails and parks in the last 15 years,” he said. “We’ve also been able to protect 1,500 acres of property. That’s a lot of new parks and nature preserves and when you have something like this [scavenger hunt] it just draws more people outside to enjoy what we have.”
Tedisco congratulated the entire troop; the scouts, their parents, the troop leaders, and their advisors.
“With this project, you both have learned so much of what it means to be a community member; to be part of a team. The things you learned from this project honesty, integrity, work ethic, and working with others will be invaluable to you for every part of your life,” he said. “And, most importantly, your project will be drawing young people here to enjoy nature.”
One of the first groups to go on the scavenger hunt after the ribbon was cut was a group of Girl Scout Cadettes from Troop 2330 and their leader Teresa Mezz.
“The girls all had a blast,” she said as the group returned to the parking area. “They followed all the clues and found all the houses. It’s a wonderful project, one that’s very creative.”