CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — The completion of a local teen’s Eagle Scout Project will benefit residents searching for more recreational opportunities as well as the town’s plan to make a five-mile-long trail more accessible.

Leo Coons, 17, has been involved in Scouting with Troop 246 since he was 11 years old. The soon-to-be Shenendehowa High School senior easily admits that obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout was “my goal from square one”.

According to the Boy Scouts of America, “the Eagle Scout rank has represented a milestone of accomplishment that is recognized across the country and even the world. Eagle Scout is not just an award; it is a state of being.”

Upon obtaining the rank of Life Scout, those scouts seeking to be awarded the rank of Eagle Scout must plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, school, or one’s community.

On Wednesday Coons put the final touches on his service project; a 24-foot-long wooden bridge that spans the original Erie Canal at a spot just west of Clute’s Dry Dock off Riverview Road in Clifton Park.

Coons’ bridge is part of a larger town project which includes getting a much longer second bridge built over the nearby enlarged Erie Canal. When completed, pedestrians wishing to take a walk along the Intercommunity Connector Trail between Halfmoon and Clifton Park will be able to reach it at mid-point without having to start at either terminus.

When he began looking for suitable service project in Dec. 2018 Coons said he went to town hall and requested a list of potential projects. One project from the list was to have a bridge built across the canal to replace an earlier Eagle Scout project that had been destroyed in a storm.

“From the second I saw it on the list, rebuilding that bridge, a bridge that had been built by another member of my troop, it was the one I wanted to do,” Coons said earlier this week. “It seemed feasible to do and it was not a project that most other Scouts would take on.”

After receiving preliminary approval from the Scouts, Coons began the planning process. He not only found the plans for the earlier bridge in the town records he sought out the parents of the Eagle Scout who had supervised its construction.

“After speaking with them I realized it was a feasible project and that I could get it done reasonably,” Coons said. “Then I came up with a design, had it approved by the engineers, the town approved it, my troop approved it, and the (Boy Scout) Council approved it. Then it was just a matter of acquiring materials and waiting for the weather to cooperate.”

Giving their nod to the design were Town Director of Building and Zoning Steve Myers and Coons’ project coach, Greg Haug, an official with the troop and a professional engineer.

In designing the new bridge Coons was asked by the town to make it a single span and build it with steel. The single span was possible but the request that it be built of steel was impractical for a group of volunteers. Instead he went with 24-foot-long beams of larch wood purchased from the Amish community; the only supplier around that could give him the length he needed.

Larch wood is a tough, durable, knot-free timber used for building yachts.

“We had to shorten the beams down to 24-feet because nobody would sell us 36-foot beams,” Coons said.

Total cost for the project was around $2,500. Funding came from a Community Action Fund grant, a Mohawk Towpath Scenic Byway Grant, individual donations of returnable bottles and cans, and private cash donations.

Once the weather warmed Coons said he and a crew of volunteers numbering between nine and 12 on any given day went out to build the bridge.

“Counting Wednesday it was a four day build,” he said. “The first day working with those 24-feet-long beams putting the planking down was the toughest day. Those first three build days we worked four or five hours a day.”

Assisting the youthful crew on that first day was George Brenner III, a Burnt Hills-based trucking firm owner who volunteered to pick up and transport the lumber, put the beams in place, and oversaw the first build day. 

With his senior year of high school fast approaching Coons said he hasn’t focused on a college or a major field of study yet though he is drawn to the science field.

“I want to do something science-y; maybe astrophysics or in the computer science realm,” he said.

Asked what his thoughts were upon completing the Eagle Scout Service Project Coons said it gave him a great feeling.

“It’s really cool seeing how all my planning is leading to a final product,” he said. “And the community, with their donations, was very helpful.”

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