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Scouts help with spring clean up at Camp Rustic Falls



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April 06, 2011 | 08:42 AM
Lyons — Orange straps were wrapped around the tree branch, then two sets of arms gave a mighty pull.

The branch broke free from the underbrush and skidded up an embankment to the road.

The two young men, wearing Boy Scout khaki, dropped the oversized limb into a wheelbarrow and a third wheeled the barrow with its load of logs across Cranberry Road to the barn for storage.

His companions kept an eye out for the occasional traffic that zipped by on the two-lane blacktop.

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Much of the wood collected by Scouts will be burned over the next year in the fire place at the Rustic Falls Camp lodge.

On Saturday, March 19, four Scouts, troop leader Scott Michaels and assistant leader Brendon O'Brien of Troop 888 of St. Matthias School, Chicago, were at Rustic Falls Camp on Cranberry Road in the town of Lyons, helping to clear out brush and buckthorn, remove trimmed tree limbs and camp out.

They also had an encounter with a three-seat outhouse.

The camp, officially opened in October, was started by Eric Lentz of Skokie, Ill., and built with the help of volunteers, family and friends.

Lentz owns and operates a pool maintenance business in the Chicago area.

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Michaels said he met Lentz at the hospital-based health center where he works, and where Lentz maintains the pool.

Michaels said he and the troop help out at Rustic Falls when Lentz needs a hand.

The Scouts were picking up pieces of tree limbs that had been trimmed earlier in the week.

Rustic Falls is on five acres that straddles the north and south sides of Cranberry Road, about two miles east of Lake Geneva. The centerpiece of Rustic Falls is a 150-year-old cobblestone farm house, which has been converted into a lodge that sleeps up to eight.

Surrounding the camp is an 83-acre nature conservancy managed by the Seno Woodland Education Center.

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Seno and Lentz have a mutual use agreement.

By coordinating activities, those visiting Rustic Hills can use the conservancy land, and those visiting the conservancy can use facilities at the camp.

The Rustic Falls mission statement is that the camp provide "unique outdoor experiences for at-risk youth, cancer survivors and physically and mentally challenged children and adults."

While the Scouts were clearing brush and limbs, Lentz was out on the Seno property marking out hiking trails.

He said he wants to mark about a mile of trails this year, with a total of two or three miles marked out eventually.

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He said the Scouts are also making informational signs that will be put along the trail to identify native tree and plant species and mark animal habitats.

About 500 feet or so to the south of the farmhouse-lodge is a natural pond. Lentz said another Boy Scout troop will be clearing the banks of the pond later this spring and will cut a trail around it.

The Scouts stayed over night Friday and Saturday, using the lodge because the ground was too wet for camping, Michael said.

Lentz said that with the exceptionally bright full moon out on Friday, the Scouts took a night-time hike around the camp.

"We didn't even need flashlights," Lentz said.

Scout Cameron Guy said he and the other Scouts performed the flag raising ceremony at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, and started working about 8 a.m. During the day, the Scouts also removed a century-old, three-seat outhouse from storage, setting it upright in back of the camp property. The rustic commode will be repurposed as a tool shed, Lentz said.

They were scheduled to light a bonfire of cut brush and scrap wood Saturday night in the camp parking lot on the north side of Cranberry Road.

With leaders Michaels and O'Brien and Scout Guy were fellow Scouts Max Michaels, Christopher Garcia and Giovanni Arias, all of Chicago.

Helping them was Lentz's son, Patrick.

Lentz and his wife, Deanna Hallagan, a Chicago-area social worker, operate the camp through the Frank Lentz Foundation, named after Eric's late father,.

Both Illinois and Wisconsin social services organizations have been invited to recommend special needs groups and families to use the camp for rest and recreation.

Lentz and Hallagan paid for the last of the work by taking out a $100,000 home equity loan, which will have to be paid off by August this year.

Lentz said that since October, he's raised $58,000 toward the loan which must be paid by August.

Lentz is also planning two other fundraisers, a country carnival at the camp site on June 12 with music and games. Admission is $10 per person and $25 per family.

Another fundraiser is also planned for the Golf Club of Algonquin in Algonquin, Ill.

For more information on Rustic Falls and the fundraisers, go to www.rusticfallsnaturecamp.org.

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