Saturday dawned cool and quiet at Fort Casey State Park on Whidbey Island, save for the 200 or so young men and women wielding shovels, pickaxes, paint brushes and brooms.
The Island District of the Boy Scouts of America held its annual Camporee for scouts age 11 and up Friday through Sunday at Fort Casey. The event is typically a series of camping-related games and competitions, but not this year.
“This year the boys decided they wanted to do something different,” said Camporee Chairman Rich Mueller of Oak Harbor. “So we worked with Washington State Parks and are doing some pretty significant work here at Fort Casey.”
Saturday morning members of nine area Boy Scout troops and a Venture Scout troop from Everett fanned out to help put a little “spit and polish” on the park. A large part of the effort focused on reopening a long-forgotten trail.
“They are creating public access to the mortar battery,” said Mueller. “They are reopening the Army’s original trail that winds down the hill from near the picnic area to the battery.”
In all, seven work details participated in cleaning the batteries themselves, scraping concrete, pruning back bushes and clearing and/or cleaning several other trails in the park.
“We’re doing all the things that need to be done in the park but the rangers never have time to do,” said Mueller. “We will have provided the park with approximately 1,000 man-hours of labor today alone.”
“The stuff they got done are the projects we don’t have the luxury of time to get done,” said State Park Ranger Brett Bayne. “It was extremely helpful and helped get the park ready for the upcoming season.”
“Service projects like this are an important part of the scouting experience,” said Blake Jones, district executive, Island District of the Mount Baker Council, which includes Whidbey Island, Anacortes and San Juan counties.
“We’re creating opportunities to not only give back, but to understand why this site is important,” Jones said.
In addition to the satisfaction and some sore muscles the scouts earn through their hard work, they will also earn the Boy Scouts’ prestigious Historic Trails Award. The award requires scouts to not only work on a historic trail or site, but to camp in the vicinity of the site and to work in cooperation with a historic group, learning the significance of the site. The project must also be on a scale grand enough to merit local media coverage.
According to Mueller, the Island County Historical Museum gave the scouts a 45-minute presentation Friday evening on how the land around Fort Casey was used by its indigenous people. Guided tours detailing the history of the fort itself were planned Saturday after the work was completed.
“This is one of the best remaining examples of a fort in the country,” said Mueller. “It’s a beautiful piece of history. We on Whidbey Island are blessed to have it.”
“I’ve never been here before, so it’s really cool to see the area,” said 13-year-old Kyle W. of Boy Scout Troop 114 in Everett. “It’s really been a lot of fun.”
“I think it’s really cool,” agreed 15-year-old Venture Scout Alexandria V., also from Everett. “I like the idea that we’re opening the trail and restoring a piece of history.”
“We’re producing young people that make a difference,” said Jones. “They’re involved in their communities and they’re learning the importance of civic service.”
“I told them that the five hours of work they did Saturday would have potentially taken us five years to complete,” said Ranger Jim Spaulding, who spoke to the scouts Saturday afternoon. “Visitors will appreciate their work for a very long time to come.”
Mueller said letting the youth do the heavy lifting, so to speak, on a project of this scope helps reinforce the importance of the service aspect of the scouting program.
“We always talk about how kindness and courtesy to our fellow man is important and this is just one example of that,” he said. “Never underestimate the power of 13-year-olds to move mountains. These are amazing young men and women.”
More information on the Mount Baker Council of the Boy Scouts of America is available at www.mountbakerbsa.org.