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Illinois hunting and fishing

Sam Childress, 15, left, an eagle scout with troop #32 in Springfield, and eagle scout candidate Zack Whiting, 15, of Springfield troop #215, position one of six new 8’ wood benches on a nature trail Sunday afternoon, Jan. 6, 2013 on the campus of The Hope

Scouts build benches, nature trail for Hope Institute

January 07, 2013 at 05:04 AM

The State Journal-Register

Mark Schmidt said officials at The Hope Institute for Children and Families have always looked for more ways to teach its students about nature.

When school officials learned about Zack Whiting and Sam Childress’ plans to create a nature trail complete with benches as part of their Eagle Scout project, he said everyone was thrilled.

On Sunday, Whiting and Childress, both 15 and from Springfield, placed six hand-built wood benches on the newly created nature trail, near the school’s administration office.

The Hope Institute for Children and Families, 15 E. Hazel Dell Lane, is a non-profit center providing educational, residential and health services to children ages 5-21 with multiple developmental disabilities, including autism spectrum disorders.

The trail winds back into the woods several hundred feet before coming to a gathering place where four benches sit.

Schmidt, the school spokesman, said the nature trail is another way to enhance the student experience.

“There really hasn’t been a way to get our students into nature beyond our regular campus,” he said. “Now, we have a way to take the youth back into nature and let them learn the differences in trees and see the natural animals.”

Whiting and Childress said they wanted to do something that would have a lasting effect. To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts have to complete a project that improves the community.

Childress, a member of Boy Scout Troop 32 in Springfield, said he spent about 12 hours clearing out overgrown brush, as well as laying down wood chips.

Whiting, of Troop 215 in Springfield, said he researched plans to build the benches for months, coming up with how much it would cost and what materials he would need.

He said he produced a chart with all of that information and showed it to school officials, who later agreed to fund the project.

The benches, each 8 feet long and weighing roughly 65 pounds, were constructed at Whiting’s parents’ home in November, he said.

Knowing the benches and trail filled a need at The Hope Institute made the experience worthwhile, Whiting said.

“I really thought this would have a lasting effect, and I know these will be put to good use,” he said.

Jason Nevel can be reached at 788-1521.

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