MOUNT VERNON — In recent years, Camp Cornish, previously a Girl Scout camp that is now a retreat center open to scouts as well as non-profit groups and individuals, has been made over thanks to several Eagle Scout projects.
The camp has received a new wood shed, an updated latrine and had its log cabin stained and sealed by scouts working to achieve the Eagle rank. Now, Alex Cook, a 15-year-old with Boy Scout Troop 339, is building a new stage for skits and campfire sing-alongs.
“Every scout camp whether its Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts do songs, presentations, stories whatever,” Cook’s father Tim, who is a scout representative on the Camp Cornish board, said explaining the need for the stage. “If you have organizations come out here, like we had a court of honor out here a week or two ago, they could have the presentations up here and everybody could be sitting out here. So it gives kind of an outdoor stage area.”
Alex Cook explained that his troop camps at Camp Cornish every February. Tim Cook, who is also a leader with the troop, explained that Camp Cornish’s amenities allow scouts referred to as “Webelos” (transitioning from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts) a camp setting that is easier, because of the available cabin, than strictly tent camp-outs, as the Boy Scouts often do.
Alex and Tim Cook, along with helpers from Club 339, worked all week to build the stage. They completed construction just before the rain started Friday. The stage is constructed from old, unused tent platforms at the camp and new wood that Cook said a local business sold him at cost. Railing was also added to the back of the stage. The remaining cost of the stage materials, roughly $600, is being covered by Camp Cornish, according to Tim Cook.
While some scouts choose to wait until closer to the deadline of their 18th birthday to complete their projects, Cook said he wanted to get his done.
“[I’m doing my project now] so I wouldn’t be cramming. I don’t want to cram like other scouts do,” Cook said, “and make sure I have [my project done] so I can stay in and reach Eagle palms I want to earn. You don’t want to cram because then you can pick your project that you really want to do instead of finding a quick one just to get done.”
Eagle palms are considered degrees of the Eagle Scout rank and can be earned along with additional merit badges up until the age of 18, according to the Boy Scouts of America website. Scouts are able to start their Eagle Scout projects as soon as they reach the life scout rank, even if they don’t have enough merits to become an Eagle Scout at that point, but they must finish before their 18th birthday, according to the Eagle Advancement Chair for Knox County, John Neighbarger.
Neighbarger explained that it is better for scouts to complete their projects before they turn 16 to make sure they are completed in time explaining that there are many distractions from high school that can make completing the project hard as the scout nears their 18th birthday.
“It’s nice to see [scouts do their projects] when they’re Alex’s age,” Neighbarger who approves the projects in Knox County explained. “People just don’t realize how much these scouts actually do.”
Neighbarger estimated that there are 17 to 18 scouts in the process of working on their Eagle Scout projects in Knox County. He noted that summer is the easiest time to complete the projects because the boys are out of school. Planning, Neighbarger explained often starts in the late and early spring. Projects do not always require building Tim Cook explained.
“The biggest thing about the Eagle project is not really what they’re building, what their doing,” Tim Cook said, “it’s about leadership and project management and planning. That’s really the whole purpose of the project is to teach them how to lead and how to manage a project.”