On a bluff overlooking the mouth of the Kenai River, two boys turned their dreams of becoming Eagle Scouts into realities.
Jacob Carlson and Jacob Pass spent hours planning, organizing and executing their Eagle Scout projects this summer that created a pocket-sized park on the bluff near the Kenai Senior Citizens Center.
"It makes it look a lot better," said Carlson, 14, of North Kenai, a home-schooled high school freshman in Boy Scout Troop 152. "There was these old logs just sitting here and they were covered in sand and beach grass."
Carlson put in a fence made of posts -- 27 in all -- and chain links around the park area to separate it from the gravel parking lot.
"It helps so people don't drive where they're not supposed to," he said.
Pass, 18, is a senior at Nikiski Middle/High School and a member of Boy Scout Crew 152, a group for older boys.
He built two picnic tables, put down a short gravel trail loop and created a small grassy picnic blanket area for the park.
"I think seeing it before and after you could really tell there was a big difference," Pass said. "It made me feel like I actually did something."
The City of Kenai is hosting a free barbecue Monday at noon to acknowledge the boys' community volunteer work at the bluff overlook. Scott Hamann, who owns Metal Magic in Kenai, will also be recognized for his donation of the metal-framed gazebo that sits there.
"It's just a 'thank you,'" said Bob Frates, Kenai's director of parks and recreation. "It's one of the busiest locations in town. Any improvements over there are a plus."
Carlson said he still has some merit badges and paperwork to finish up before he applies to be an Eagle Scout. Pass, on the other hand, has completed all requirements and is currently in the review process. He will find out if he made it to Eagle Scout in December, he said.
With volunteer hours included, the picnic pad project probably took nearly 200 hours to complete, Pass said. Carlson said just building the fence took him some 12 hours, but that's not counting the time spent getting everything together before construction.
And the young men found some lessons within those hours of diligence and determination.
Carlson said he learned project management skills and gained a tenacious "keep on trying" attitude in the time spent making contacts for materials and volunteers.
And Pass discovered another proactive lesson.
"I learned not to procrastinate," Pass said. "I had to get this done in six days."
Pass was on a tight deadline because he had to complete the project before his 18th birthday this summer to be eligible for the Eagle Scout Medal, he said.
According to Jodi Stuart, a Boy Scouts of America district executive for the area, only 2 percent of all Boy Scouts become Eagles.
"It is the pinnacle of their scouting career," she said.
Boy Scouts of America encourages outdoor Eagle projects like the ones completed by Pass and Carlson because that's what the organization is all about, she said.
Stuart said the impact of Eagle Scout projects on the community -- and the young men who complete them -- is long-term.
Despite the hours and energy put in, the honor of the award that will separate them from other job applicants makes it especially significant.
"It really makes it all worth it," she said.
And when Eagle Scouts look back on their projects they oftentimes see it as something that's made them who they are, she said.
But these young men haven't made it that far yet.
"I haven't really looked back on it because I just completed it," Carlson said.
He said that he thinks becoming an Eagle Scout is an important life goal.
"It helps you be a better person later on so you can change the world," he said.
Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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