When Will Roberson restored the nature trail at the Children’s Center of Knoxville for his Eagle Scout project, he did more than give small children a place to take nature hikes. He followed in the footsteps of his older brother, Ben.
Both brothers have earned Eagle Scout awards through Troop 146 at Middlebrook Pike United Methodist Church. Ben, 22, a senior in computer science at the University of Tennessee, earned his Eagle Scout Award at 18. Will, 18 and a freshman at Pellissippi State Community College, received his Oct. 15.
With the help of Troop 146, Ben built the initial, 400-foot nature trail at Children’s Center of Knoxville, 301 Frank St, where about half the about 116 children are from low-income families. The highly ranked center receives funding from United Way and the Department of Human Services.
“Ben built a good trail with several hundred hours of hard work and two dump truck loads of mulch. They were 8 feet high and 15 feet wide, quite large,” said Will.
Pre-K teacher Brad Burleson said the nature trail is ideal for young children. “Before, we had a kind of trail that was narrow and full of stumps. Now it is super wide and easy to use. A lot of our kids live in the city and don’t get to go out in nature much. We take hikes nearly every day.”
For his project, Will and CCK director Jane Kite agreed he should clean and fix up the trail.
Will brought a crew from Troop 146 equipped with shovels, rakes and pitchforks. “We applied new mulch where rainwater had washed it away, and cleared several fallen trees. It was mostly tidying up the trail, putting down much-needed mulch and clearing away plants,” he said. Then he went a step further. He built a pair of sturdy, cedar benches.
“The idea began when my assistant scoutmaster, Jeffrey Turnmire, said he’d gotten hold of a fallen cedar tree. He mentioned he had some logs and wouldn’t mind sharing them with me.” He helped Turnmire cut the logs into slabs with a chain saw mill.
“We were dealing with raw wood, not wood that has been treated like you would buy. The logs were six feet long with bark still on them.”
Will, who wants to become a mechanical engineer, built the first bench using plans he’d purchased online. Before he could finish the second one, he ran out of wood. So he approached Witt Lumber Company.
“I made an appointment with Bob Witt. I showed him my plans and asked him if I could have two cedar 4 x 4s, to finish my project. He said he was happy to give me the wood,” Will said.
He finished the second bench. Then he sanded them both, rubbed them with timber oil, let them season, and delivered them to CCK.
“They loved them. They said they were awesome, amazing and fantastic,” he said.
Burleson concurred. “Before, we had no seating in front. There was nothing. Now children sit on the benches while they are waiting their turn to do things. Grandparents sit on them while they wait for their children to come out. They are wonderful,” he said.