Stefan Hard / Staff Photo Newly-minted Eagle Scout Justin Folsom, 15, of Barre Town, left,with friend and fellow scout Jonathan Hutchinson, 12, also of Barre Town, carry garbage Sunday the collected from along the Barre Bike Path, just off Fairfiew Street. Scout leaders Joe Aldsworth, left, and Rick Hutchinson follow.
BARRE — A community that has long claimed, with some justification, that it is home to America’s first Boy Scout troop is about to hatch another Eagle, and there are more where 15-year-old Justin Folsom came from.
A storied troop whose roots date back to 1909 could soon be boasting a flock of Eagles as Scouts, like Folsom, put the finishing touches on community-based projects that should vault them into rarefied air in the Scouting world.
Becoming an Eagle Scout isn’t easy, according to Folsom, who is not there yet, but should be soon thanks to a project he pulled off with the help of family, friends and fellow Scouts.
“It was a real challenge,” Folsom said Sunday while strolling along a 1,750-foot section of paved bike path that looks a whole lot better today than it did before spring break.
Don’t take Folsom’s word for it. Just ask Tilden House resident Bill Erno.
Erno, 85, has been walking the path, from Fairview Street all the way to South Barre and back, for the past 17 years, and he said Sunday the section Folsom and his crew just finished sprucing up was in desperate need of some attention.
“They did a great job,” Erno said before continuing his daily stroll. “I think it looks nice.”
According to Folsom, Erno was one of a number of regular bike path users who offered near-daily encouragement, as he and a crew that included his brush-hogging grandfather Art Hutteman, and woodchipping grandmother Lucille Hutteman, both of Plainfield, worked their way down the overgrown path.
“It hadn’t gotten good work in a while,” Folsom said of a portion of bike path that is built over an old dump site and runs between Fairview Street and the Parkside Terrace entrance to Barre City Elementary School.
Translation: “It was pretty much a mess,” he said.
A project that began with Folsom taking midwinter pictures of trouble spots with his Ipad ended later with 500 pounds of scrap metal, 10 contractor bags of loose trash and debris, eight tires, 400 hours and a whole lot of dead wood.
“It looks really good,” Folsom said of a project he organized and executed during spring break after consulting with Jeff Bergeron, the city’s facilities director.
“He (Bergeron) said: ‘It (the bike path) needs work’ … so I decided this would be my project,” he said.
That was the easy part, according to Folsom, who did a walk-through with a can of orange spray paint to mark many of the trouble spots he’d photographed over the winter and a few he hadn’t noticed after the snow melted earlier this spring.
From there it was rounding up volunteers — including his power tool-wielding grandparents from Plainfield and close family friend from Graniteville, Forrest Degreenia, who is a whiz with a chainsaw.
“I had a lot of help,” said Folsom, who was joined by several members of his troop working on the bike path that’s constructed on a steep wooded hillside.
“We found a lot of stuff,” he said.
Most of it, from two rusty old bikes, a refrigerator, part of a pressure cooker and a machete, they removed. Some of it, most notably a large industrial fan that juts out of the hillside overlooking the Stevens Branch, they didn’t.
“We tried,” Folsom said of the fan, explaining how the city sent a backhoe up to tackle that part of the project, but gave up when it was clear the huge metal fan wasn’t going to budge.
Folsom said he got a thumbs up on his project from City Manager Steve Mackenzie and Mayor Thomas Lauzon during a walk-through last week and is scheduled to update the City Council when it meets Tuesday.
Then it’s all over but the time it takes to schedule a “board review,” where he’ll be peppered with questions about the project, and to schedule the “court of honor” when he officially becomes an Eagle Scout.
Folsom’s stepdad and Scoutmaster, Joe Aldsworth, already is one. And, he said, there are more on the way in Barre, home of the troop with the historic boast, that came oh so close to fizzling three years ago.
Former Scoutmaster Tom Koch made sure that didn’t happen before handing Troop 795, the descendant of what was once Troop 1 in Barre, over to Rick Hutchinson.
Hutchinson, who has since swapped spots with Aldsworth, who once served as his assistant, credited Koch for rounding up enough boys to keep Troop 795 alive. Over the past three years membership has swelled from five to 25 and Aldsworth said it is a pretty motivated bunch.
T.J. Derose got what Aldsworth expects will be a run on Eagle Scouts going earlier this year after constructing a “prayer garden” at the local Presbyterian church.
Folsom’s Eagle Scout project is now behind him, but several others are in the works. One of Hutchinson’s three sons, Michael, is already planning to blaze a nature trail in the old city “cow pasture” as part of a municipal project that is being funded with some of the money former Barre businessman Charlie Semprebon left the city following his death in 2009. Keiran Verret is planning to construct raised bed gardens at the Good Samaritan Haven shelter on Seminary Street, and Greg Thiverge isn’t far away from picking a project.
Hutchinson said his oldest son, Joseph, 17, will soon be selecting an Eagle Scout project as a member of Pack 714 and, at least for now, his youngest son, Jonathan, 12, is busy earning merit badges and helping friends like Folsom complete their community projects.
“I like helping,” said the boy who will have plenty of opportunity to do just that as other Barre Scouts start working on their projects in coming months.
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