Front Page Story – Loon Lake Times Nov/Dec 2020 print edition
Front Page Story – Loon Lake Times Nov/Dec 2020 print edition
By ElizaBeth Coira, Reporter
[LOON LAKE] The sound in Morgan Wood this sunny, brisk fall morning was full of purpose and promise. Mead-based Boy Scout Troop 203 gathered in the 43.1-acre tract of woodlands just north of Loon Lake to support the Loon Lake Land Conservancy (LLLC) in their mission to protect and preserve the area’s fragile ecosystem. The team of 16 teens, parents, and friends were coordinated by 14-year-old Boy Scout Nic Keener, a part-time Loon Lake resident, who has been playing beneath the trees of Morgan Wood since his early years. To give back to the lands that have nurtured so much of his childhood, Nic designed a special service project in conjunction with earning his Eagle Scout rank, that resulted in 20 new trail signs, four exquisite benches, and numerous miles of cleanly raked trails for the enjoyment of residents and visitors of Morgan Wood.
Jerry Kuntz, LLLC Board Member and Volunteer Coordinator [pictured above with Nic Keener], was contacted by Nic and his parents Bill and Sherry Keener, to explore this volunteer partnership opportunity. Kuntz explained, “Nic is so well organized. He presented me with a complete project plan to install trail signs and benches, create a trail map, and do general trail cleaning to enhance access and the overall experience of Morgan Wood. I am so impressed by this young man and I think neighbors will really appreciate the Scouts’ efforts today.”
To earn his Eagle Scout rank, Keener, a sophomore at Mt. Spokane High School, orchestrated a detailed plan that gave him experience in project design and management, budgeting, and fundraising, as well as team leadership and organization. Once his service plan was approved by his Scoutmaster, the Scout Council, and the LLLC, Keener set to work organizing a family garage sale that raised nearly $900 for materials and supplies. Dressed in his Boy Scout uniform, he then visited various local businesses, meeting with managers to explain his project and ask for discounts and donations. Both Lowe’s and Miller Paint came through, offering notable discounts on lumber, paint, and other supplies.
Keener’s family provided a downed tree from their property to be repurposed into four gorgeous benches for Morgan Wood, while family friend and sawmill owner Alvin Craipo donated his time and saw to cut pieces for the benches. Prior to the October 17 service day, Keener and his father Bill built the benches, while various Scouts helped sand and paint the posts for the new trail signs. Keener also walked and mapped out the trails a few days prior to the project (with the assistance of his father and Jerry Kuntz) marking spots for posts and benches.
The trail signs were created by LLLC with a special meaning behind the selected trail names. Kuntz explained, “Almost 20 signs are going in, and we’re naming most of the trails in honor of the history of Morgan Wood and the Morgan Family. The person who donated this woodland to the Conservancy, Gail Kreuzberger , was the daughter of Neil McDermott who was the manager of the resort that had been here for many years, and a granddaughter of Evan Morgan. One trail is going to be called “Grandpa Mac’s Truck,” for Grandpa Neil McDermott. We used to drive his truck up here with loads of pine needles from raking in the park. Another trail will be marked “Gail’s Trail” after Gail Kreuzberger, donor of this land. She always wanted it to be a passive park for people to walk through and enjoy the woods, and not be developed. So that’s what it continues to be today and will always be, hopefully.”
On the morning of October 17, Keener woke his father at around 5:30 a.m. to start pre-drilling holes for the signposts. He pre-positioned buckets with water, first aid kits, and other supplies, and was ready when his team started arriving at 8:30 a.m. After receiving an explanation of the project and brief demonstration, the Scouts sprang into action like a well-oiled machine under Keener’s leadership. He later explained, “I learned a lot of lessons about team organization. At first, I had a hard time explaining to everyone what needed to be done in a way they could understand it. Then I did a demonstration of what we needed to do, which really helped. We made and gave out a trail map, and I assigned labor with the Scout’s ‘two-deep rule’ in mind, and the buddy system ⸺ two scouts with one adult.”
Fellow Scouts Noah Klopsch and Ben Smith praised their friend, saying they felt everything was “safe and well organized.” Scoutmaster Brent Merrel , who has known Keener since he was 5 years old, shared “It’s been really neat to see the Scouts grow and mature through this process. They have learned so many outdoor and leadership skills through the years. In Boy Scouts we really try to mentor character, citizenship, leadership, and physical development. This is a boy-led program, as you can see from Nic’s project today, and I couldn’t be prouder of him. Becoming an Eagle Scout is a major accomplishment. Out of the kids that start out young, nationally only about 2% make it to Eagle Scout. Locally here, we’ve had about 15% become Eagle Scouts.”
Keener’s mother Sherry says she “highly recommends” Boy Scouts to any parents looking around for opportunities to expand their children’s horizons. “They learn a lot of great skills, including outdoor skills, team building, leadership, and the importance of community service. Being outdoors really helps kids with their mental and physical health. Some of the things they learn as Scouts, most kids have no idea about. For example, my son has learned how to maintain my vehicle by changing the oil, tires, and filter. They usually camp and hike once a month, getting a better sense of connection with nature. Nic has also studied engineering for a merit badge. There are so many life skills they learn in Boy Scouts. And as a parent getting involved, it gives you a great chance to spend quality time with your child, while getting great insight into how your kid works. Everybody has skills to share. Scouting really gives kids a chance to explore, develop, and share their skills for the greater good of the community.”
Keener, who also volunteers regularly at the Northwest Harvest food bank , says that Scouting has played a big role in motivating him to give to the community through service. “I’ve learned so much through Scouts, and in the course of this project. After purchasing supplies, I had about $50 left over. That’s going to be directly donated to the Land Conservancy. I’d like to thank everybody who has helped make this project happen today in Morgan Wood. Community service will definitely continue to be an important part of my life, and the friendships I have made in Scouts will be for a lifetime. I enjoy walking and riding my bike in Morgan Wood, and hope our project here today will help others also enjoy getting outside into the woods.”
To learn more about the Loon Lake Land Conservancy, visit loonlakelandconservancy.org. To learn more about the Boy Scouts of America, including to find a troop near you, visit beascout.org. ⸙