CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Many Boy Scout hands from Troop 31 in Charleston have put hard work into a 2.4-mile hiking and biking trail, clearing debris, cutting paths, installing benches and picnic tables and even building small bridges.
Their work has helped four Scouts earn their Eagle Scout designation and this past Saturday put a fifth on his way to the prestigious award.
It also has helped to preserve a legacy for the Hartman and Wallace families in Charleston, who welcome the trail's use by the public but wanted to make sure this portion would never be developed for another use.
The Wallace-Hartman Trail — accessed either off South Ruffner Road in Kanawha City or from Hampton Road in South Hills — has taken a team approach by the Boy Scouts, the family, the Kanawha County Parks and Recreation Department and the non-profit West Virginia Land Trust.
Troop 31 Scoutmaster Jim Porter credits a Scout family that has since moved out of the country for seeing the potential for his troop's members in becoming involved.
"A lot of credit goes to Keith Pauley, whose sons, Titus and Micah, both did their Eagle Scout projects there," he said. "Keith got us started, but now we're carrying on."
Porter said his Scouts have showed impressive dedication to the trail project. Part of that can be attributed to his advice to boys who are embarking on their Eagle Scout projects, a public service project involving many hours that usually takes place after the Scout has fulfilled a number of other requirements, including earning 21 merit badges.
"I encourage the boys by telling them it's not something you take on yourself," Porter said. "A true measure of an Eagle Scout is showing leadership in getting a project together. The leadership aspect of it is important."
Scout Nate Lambert of Charleston earns leadership points for getting a couple dozen of his fellow Scouts — and two best friends who aren't even in the troop — to come out on a muddy and cold Saturday to log a day's worth of work on the trail. His team of Scouts and a dozen parents logged 153 hours total on Saturday alone.
At 13, he's determined to be the youngest Scout in his troop to earn his Eagle designation. His project for the trail included assembling and installing picnic tables, some upcoming ditch drainage work and trail clearing.
"It feeds on itself," Porter said. "Yes, I give it direction and yes, the Boy Scouts set this up. But the group of boys actually in there feed off each other."
The help gets passed down the line. Nate helped his fellow scouts with their Eagle Scout projects on the trail. Now they are helping him. And when, as Porter predicts, three or four more scouts embark on their projects this year, Nate will be there to help.
"Since our troop was founded, we've already had 67 Eagles," Porter said. "We had four last year."
The troop's history goes back to 1917, and Porter has served as scoutmaster since 1985. His son, Jimmy, now 30, is his assistant scoutmaster.