Stevie Branche, Boy Scout and Trailblazer
This month’s Hudson Valley Hero is a New Paltz teen who built a walking trail for seniors
Residents of Woodland Pond at New Paltz, the upscale senior living community, can wade in the indoor pool, unwind in the billiards room, and now — thanks to New Paltz High School senior Stevie Branche — commune with nature and stretch their legs on a new walking trail.
Last year’s opening of a short path, which leads to a viewing platform overlooking a pond, was a welcome addition to campus, but residents yearned for more: an opportunity to take in the great outdoors along with a bit of exercise on a continuous loop trail. After learning this piece of intel from his mother, the site’s facilities coordinator, Branche started hatching plans for his a Boy Scouts service project, which would ultimately lead him a step closer to earning coveted Eagle Scout status. After securing numerous approvals, Branche began work on extending and improving Woodland Pond’s trail last fall.
It was something of a group effort, Branche recalls: “Sometimes it was just me working, sometimes my dad came along, sometimes 15 of my fellow troop members joined in.” With flagging tape and stakes, he devised an easy walking path with minimal slopes. His father rented a Brush Hog, and together they cleared out the weeds; other troop members tackled the remaining roots and branches. A layer of wood chips and mulch made the land soft underfoot. After 200 hours of work, the path opened in late August.
“It’s just a nice walk through the woods, where you can sit down on a bench and have a rest,” Branche says.
He joined the Cub Scouts when he was “as young as could be”; the Woodland Pond project is thus far the largest he’s taken on — something he hopes will make a strong impression when he applies for college this year, where he also hopes to play baseball.
“It was tough and long,” says Branche of the work, “but worth it for the sense of pride and accomplishment.”
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