Children who visit the Carbon County Environmental Education Center can now enjoy the sweet freedom of playing in the woods, thanks to Eagle Scout Calen Foose of Andreas.
Foose, 18 and a senior at Tamaqua Area High School, created a natural outdoor adventure area at the center as his Eagle Scout project.
"It's a project we had wanted to do for quite some time," said CCEEC program assistant Franklin Klock. The idea, he said, is for "kids to be able go into an area where it's more natural, where it's more like the woods, where they can play and climb on things and become pirates and become adventurers if they want to, without it being so sterile (and artificial). It gives parents the opportunity to let their kids go out and run around in the woods – play in the woods like we all did when we were kids – but with the assurance that they know where they are."
To create the project, an area of new growth forest was cleared of some trees and brush. Foose mulched the area and made a path leading to it. He built a natural 12-foot-long wood balance beam from a fallen tree, two eight-foot-long benches, a sandbox and a raised box that holds natural building blocks made of debarked, sanded and water-sealed sections of tree limb.
"But we left all the big trees, because if the kids want to climb those trees, they are more than welcome," Klock said.
He is impressed with Foose's perseverance on the project. The Scout worked on weekends, around his school schedule, Leo Club and Drama Club commitments. Foose also had open-heart surgery in May.
Foose, of Troop 743, Summit Hill, said he was searching for a project when he remembered that a friend's brother worked at CCEEC. He wondered if the center would need something.
"I called them up and they said they could definitely use my help," he said. CCEEC staff suggested a playground.
"I thought it was a great idea, because I've liked playgrounds since I was a little kid," Foose said.
The project took about six weeks of work. Foose said one of the most interesting things he learned was that "It's a lot harder than it might seem to make stuff without any metal. There's no metal involved in it at all – it's all natural."
On Saturday, Foose, a son of Charlene and Jim Belzner, was awarded his Eagle Scout status at a ceremony held at CCEEC, along Lentz Trail in Summit Hill. The ceremony included Foose presenting mentor pins to Walter Hill, who is Carbon County's oldest Eagle Scout, and to Scoutmaster Anne Girard.
Foose, a modest young man, said he was "humbled" by the number of people attending, and by their accolades. They included commendations presented by state Sen. David G. Argall, himself an Eagle Scout, and state Rep. Jerry Knowles, who was also a Boy Scout.
"The number of people, just like the amount of help I have been given, is staggering," Foose said. "Thank you to everyone. Without you, I would not be where, or who, I am today. Thank you."
Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is becoming a tradition in Foose's family: His older brother, Mark, is an Eagle Scout, and younger brother Matthew is aiming for the same goal.