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Eagle Scout project helps State Park

Making trails

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June 23, 2010 | 09:04 AM
For years, hikers and cross-country skiers enjoying Big Foot Beach State Park have pretty much been on their own when it comes to navigating the park's trails.

Some are delineated with rotting posts that have no signs on them. Other trails are marked with colored paint on tree trunks. Several trail areas aren't marked at all.

"Unacceptable," was the word Big Foot Beach State Park Manager Anne Korman used to describe the signage of the more than 6 miles of trails in the park.

But, it won't be like that much longer thanks to John Guske and his Eagle Scout project.

The 15-year-old, along with several other scouts and his father Frank, have been working hard recently, setting dozens of solid white oak posts that soon will hold colored signage marking the five trails in the park.

"The trail markers really were hard to tell which trail you were on and they were confusing," Guske said. "Some weren't even posted."

Korman couldn't be happier with the help she is receiving from Guske, his family and the other scouts.

"They are doing a great job and really have taken the time in the park to get to know the trails," Korman said. "When they started, I stressed the proper placement of the signage and they are doing that."

Guske, who will be a sophomore at Badger High School in fall, organized his project from the start. He used the park's existing map and hiked the trails, trying to find the most user-friendly locations for all posts and signage. The trails used to have just six marking posts. Guske and his helpers are installing 65 or 66 which will be topped with properly colored signage indicating the trails.

"There were some strange trails and markings," Guske said about the old markings. "Some of them you can't tell where you are supposed to go or where the map is intersecting."

He also said he talked to people who were hiking the trails in the state park. He said they told him the trail markings are important and a long time coming.

Korman said the trail signage at the park hasn't been addressed for 15 to 20 years.

"It's bothered me ever since I first got here," she said about the poor markings.

Although Korman said nobody ever became lost enough to require state park officials to go out and search for them, the signs will be a great addition to the park.

"We are fortunate that never happened," she said of someone getting lost. "We have only 6-1/2 miles of trails and they loop around so we have never had that type of issue."

Guske also wants to create and post two large laminated maps at the entrances to the park.

There's still work to do, but so far, Guske is excited about the progress.

"It has shown that all the hard work finally pays off," Guske said.

He said approval was needed from state officials as well as the scouts to ensure the project was acceptable to reach the rank of Eagle Scout.

Guske's father, Frank, Troop 239 leader, said because of budget cuts, this type of project wouldn't be done without volunteers such as the scouts. He said the project would not have been possible without help from local man Kenny Johns, who has supplied the materials at cost on all the scout projects at the park. Frank also is trying to teach his scouts about community service.

"If you wait for the government to pay your way, it's never going to happen," Guske said. "It's your park, my park, our park. We are trying to teach the boys that it's up to them to do these types of things."

John said the project couldn't have been done without the help of his family, fellow scouts and Korman.

Korman said the signs, which match others in parks across Wisconsin, have been ordered and should arrive in about three weeks.

Guske's project is one of many that local scouts have worked on in the park. The Friends of Big Foot Beach funded the items for the project.

"We have been very fortunate to have the scouts help out," Korman said.

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