Boy Scout Troop 61, the largest troop out of Milwaukee, has built a tradition in the Northwoods and that construction reached a milestone this summer. The troop, which has been coming to Jag Lake in Vilas County since 1971, recently celebrated the completion of its 30th Eagle Scout project performed up north.
The foreman for the project, which was the construction of a bulletin board kiosk for the Jag Lake group camp site, was Aidan Mayrand, a 17 year old from Madison, and he was the perfect scout for the job.
“Design and engineering. That’s what I like,” Mayrand said. “I’d say it’s peaked my interest for about five years. Since about middle school.”
Therefore he couldn’t have been more pleased when he learned the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was in need of a new kiosk at Jag Lake. Not only would such a project help him reach Eagle Scout status, it would also allow him to put his passions to practical use.
Following blueprints supplied by the DNR, Mayrand led a crew of 14 of his fellow scouts and five family members in the construction of the huge wooden kiosk, which will be used to post information and notices regarding the Jag Lake group campsite.
It took the crew around 12 hours to measure, cut, and assemble the wooden structure which was constructed in three phases. First they tackled the main body of the kiosk, which was made of wooden boards and various sizes of log poles. Then they built an arched, wooden-shingled roof. The last remaining challenge was to put the heavy roof on top of the base, which was a formidable task, because the base was more than 10 feet tall.
To pull that off, Mayrand got creative with his plan. He and the crew shuffled the base between two tall piles of wooden beams which happened to be on the work site, so the kiosk was supported upright. Then they lifted the roof up on the pile of beams and then crawled up themselves. Finally, they walked the roof across the beam pile and secured it upon the base. That process allowed them to work on connecting the roof while the base was standing.
“It was a challenge,” Mayrand said. “But that’s the main purpose of it.”
The actual construction of the kiosk, however, was only part of the challenge the Eagle Scout project presented. Mayrand spent the previous six months planning for it. He had to make all the calls, texts, and emails to the DNR to get the project proposed and approved.
“While my parents and my advisors were giving me advice and giving me reminders, which I’m thankful for, all of it was relied on me to go ahead and actually make the contacts,” he said.
Mayrand also had to write out step-by-step instructions for his crew, help them to visualize the finished product, and then lead them in the execution of the plan.
“I was completely comfortable with it,” Mayrand said about the leadership role he was in. “Eagle project is really concerned about demonstrating that you know how to give the group directions.”
The finished product turned out beautifully and met the approval of the project’s foreman.
“I’m really satisfied with how it turned out,” Mayrand said.
The kiosk project was definitely a test of character, but with its elements of engineering and design, it was also an intellectual challenge, and that is right up Troop 61’s alley. They’re a thinking man’s troop.
Their camp was a rustic university, complete with an environmental science and entomology department. So not only did Troop 61 scouts participate in the traditional activities of summer camp like swimming, boating, hiking, and fishing, they also conducted water and soil tests, collected insect specimens, and observed and recorded the wildlife and plants in and around camp. They even played chess and constructed rockets.
Troop 61 also learned wilderness survival skills. Some of the boys had to construct shelters using nothing but what was available in the wild and then spend a night in them with nothing but a sleeping bag and a flashlight. Additionally the scouts learned fire starting, knot tying, lashing, water purification, and emergency preparedness and response.
And they got a real life test of the latter on the way up north as their caravan entered a tornado warning area. The scouts took shelter in a park bathroom and waited out the storm before going into action.
“They did fantastic during the actual tornado warning. They got under cover and then participated in the recovery portion which is moving branches out of the roadway and kept a cool head,” assistant Scout Master Wayne Dauphinais said. “That all happened on the way up so the boys, without knowing it, fulfilled one of their requirements to participate in a live or drill emergency type situation.”
Like Mayrand displayed with the kiosk project, the take-charge attitude of the scouts after the storm is what Troop 61 strives to inspire. In fact, the camp at Jag Lake was largely run by a scout.
Sam Tarrence, age 15, was elected senior patrol leader and with that role came tremendous responsibility.
“I run the leader meetings at the end of the day after the campfire and in those we discuss how all the merit badges went and we discuss if there were any problems that we need to solve the next day,” Tarrence said. “I also determine some of the activities that we do.”
Additionally, it is Tarrence who assigns duties and monitors the days schedules and makes sure all the scouts are where they should be for a given period.
“As adult leaders we’re here to guide. They run this,” Troop 61 committee chairman Gene Genal said. “You can’t make it any better for these kids. It’s all kid run.”
It’s that independence which eventually prepares scouts, like Mayrand, for the challenges of an Eagle Scout project.
“The Eagle project is a project that you as a Boy Scout will go ahead and do to benefit your community. Leave an impact,” Mayrand said.
And after 30 of them, Troop 61 has definitely left its mark on the Northwoods. In years past, they have also cleaned beaches and fire pits, dug latrines, and built boat slides.
“It’s all tradition,” Genal said of the troop’s years of service.
And like the new kiosk for Jag Lake, it’s a tradition well built.
Jacob Friede may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]