WL Eagle Scout builds viewing shelter for 300-year-old tree
When Collin Smith started brainstorming ideas for an Eagle Scout project, he quickly zeroed in on West Linn's White Oak Savanna Park.
"When I was younger in Scouts, (volunteer) Roberta Schwarz came to my troop and said, 'We have this great park, we need people to come help,'" Smith said. "So I got involved when I was 11 years old, and my dad and I actually helped build the trails. And after that, we just always came back helping with service hours, and I decided I wanted to do my Eagle project here."
After scrapping his initial idea of building a structure for the park's incoming nature playground due to time constraints, Smith — a member of West Linn's Boy Scout Troop 149 — decided to build an observation shelter that looked out at his favorite tree in the park. He started the project in February and — after seven weekends of intensive work — completed the shelter earlier this month.
"It's for this really old Douglas fir tree," Smith said. "Arborists came out and found out it's almost 300 years old, and it's really cool because there's a couple splits in it, so it spreads out in two different places. It's just a neat tree to look at, and also it's pretty much at the top of the park, so it overlooks the Savanna."
Indeed, a 90-degree turn away from the tree offers a pristine view of West Linn's 10th Street area and the Willamette River.
The City can already envision how the shelter might be utilized in the future.
"Collin's project provides a great opportunity to provide some interpretive signs for a lot of other things besides the large fir, e.g. Pete's Mountain, the Willamette Narrows, Canemah Bluffs and even the original location of the Willamette Meteorite," Parks and Recreation Director Ken Worcester said in an email. "We are finding that people are really intrigued by the not-so-common knowledge 'history' of the area."
Smith said this was the first time he'd built something of this magnitude, and the process wasn't easy.
"We started planning in the fall of last year, and the majority (of the project) was actually just planning and design," Smith said. "I don't know how, but my first design is the structure that's up there."
All told, Smith estimated that about 50 people helped him with the project for a total of 750 hours.
"There were a couple of days when it was just downpouring and no one really wanted to be there, but that just shows the commitment of my troop," Smith said.
With all that in mind, it was a special moment when the final nail was hammered in and the shelter was complete.
"My dad and I hugged and he started crying, which made me emotional," Smith said, "because we put all this effort into it, and finally we got to step back and enjoy it."