New Elachee Creek Bridge
Hikers walking over Elachee Creek, near the intersection of the Dodd Trail and Elachee Creek Trail, will cross more safely thanks to a newly constructed bridge. Nick Harkins, Elachee’s Youth Volunteer of the Year and Camp Elachee counselor-in-training, completed this replacement bridge June 18, 2016 as his Eagle Scout project.
Nick, now 16 years old, knew in the fifth grade that he wanted to be an Eagle Scout. Having been at the Boy Scout Life rank for over three years, Nick rejected numerous project proposals from friends and family for attaining his Eagle Scout rank.
He wanted his project to somehow involve Elachee and the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve. “They’ve done so much for me,” Nick shared about his commitment to Elachee. “My time spent at Elachee has been the most impactful and helpful. When it came to my Eagle Scout project, nobody else but Elachee.”
When he first approached the Elachee Nature Science Center administration two years ago, nothing on the ‘wish list’ appealed. However, all it took was a walk on Elachee Creek Trail and Nick found his project.
“Two years ago, I was hiking, looking around for inspiration and saw the bridge,” Nick recalls. “The old bridge needed to be fixed, so I approached Lee Irminger (Elachee Nature Resources Manager) last November with my idea and project plan.”
Planning and Approvals
This excerpt from Nick’s Eagle Scout project proposal tells the story.
"I have been volunteering and visiting Elachee Nature Science Center for many years. Since Elachee has been a big part of my life, I wanted to give something back to them. I have been looking for something that would be helpful to them and while out hiking one day…I saw the Elachee Creek bridge and bench area beside it, and noticed it was in great need of being replaced. On the bridge, the boards are rotting and many of them have broken. The benches are often used by campers during Camp Elachee and school groups during the school year, and I wanted to make this area more beneficial to the programs. … The bridge is on a highly visited trail… Replacing the bridge and redoing the bench area will make this area more user friendly to Elachee and their visitors."
Nick sketched out his bridge design. The most significant change from the old bridge structure was adding rails to both sides. He also chose to replace the bench with picnic tables.
Nick’s goal: have the bridge and tables in place before summer’s end to make the trail safer for Camp Elachee use, ready before Elachee Nature Academy students arrived for the school year in early August and when school field trips resume this fall.
Rusty Harkins, Nick’s father, had access to engineers through work who took Nick’s rough design and then created a digitized schematic plan. Nick then gained approval for his Eagle Scout project from both his Troop and the Boy Scout Council.
Friends Pitching In
Nick invited friends, family and even his dad’s co-workers to help on construction day.
“Everyone planned to arrive at 8 a.m. A bunch of my volunteers came about 7:45 and headed down the trail. I was 10 minutes behind them,” Nick said. “When I got to Elachee Creek, they had already torn down the old bridge and moved the scrap wood.”
Repurposing 100 percent of the old wood, Nick’s volunteers moved the wood to an area on Dodd Trail earmarked for maintenance.
“Nick and his team did an excellent job constructing the new bridge,” commends Lee Irminger. “Their efforts have certainly helped to ensure the sustainability of the hiking trail system within the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.”
Celebrating “Mr. Nick’s” Bridge
Camp Elachee adventurers were the very first to enjoy walking across the newly constructed Elachee Creek bridge last week.
“Campers were excited to walk over Mr. Nick’s bridge,” shares Camp Elachee 2016 Director Ciara Frakes. “We had been avoiding this trail in earlier camp weeks. But now, we’re all happy to have a new trail to explore with our campers the rest of the summer. We even have a new place on the trails to eat lunch!”