2013-10-17 / News

Island teen achieves rank of Eagle Scout

By Margo Sullivan

Zachary Neronha, 16, has attained the rank of Eagle Scout. On Monday, the Town Council will present him with a proclamation acknowledging his contribution to the community.

Scoutmaster James Archibald wrote the councilors last month to inform them about Zachary’s achievement. This was after the Boy Scout cleared a trail at a historic site from the American Revolution.

Zachary said he planned, organized and supervised construction of a new North Loop Trail at the Conanicut Battery. He settled on the site after he surveyed several other locations in town and consulted with members of the Jamestown Historical Society.

The battery emerged as his favorite spot, partly because he worked on a trail there before. Zachary said he helped Nate Hopkins and Dylan Walsh build the Fallen Maple Trail years ago. Hopkins and Walsh were also Boy Scouts. For their respective Eagle Scout projects, they each supervised the construction of half the trail. Zachary, who was in sixth grade at the time, was among the scouts that pitched in.

“I gave them a hand and I liked it,” he said.

Last year, when he needed an Eagle Scout project, he was leaning toward building a trail. The question was where. After he surveyed some other potential sites in town, he decided to meet with representatives of the battery association and sound out their ideas. Zachary met with Dennis Webster and Larry McDonald last December.

“They laid out what they thought would be a nice thing to add,” he said. “We walked around and came up with a master plan.”

The result was a project with several components, he said.

The main accomplishment was building a new North Loop Trail, but the job also called for clearing an overlook at the western edge with a view to Narragansett Bay. In addition, Zachary did some work on the Fallen Maple Trail that he worked on four years ago, rerouting a section of the old trail that would work better in a different location.

Most of the trail goes through shade, but one section, which receives sunlight, called for grass. So he planted some. He also handled repairs and improvements to signs on the old trail and created two signs for the new trail.

“And the final thing was using sledge hammers to clear rocks that erosion had revealed on the trail,” he said.

Once he outlined the project, he went to the historical society, the Town Council and the troop committee to obtain approval.

“They gave me some good ideas,” he said.

The next step was to call for volunteers to do the work.

Eagle Scout candidates are supposed to manage the project, he said, while other scouts or adults actually do the heavy lifting.

“The purpose of the project isn’t so much to do the work yourself,” he said. “You lead it. Supervise it. Manage it.”

In fact, one of the rules says that the Scout candidates aren’t allowed to do the grunt work.

Ultimately, Zachary said, clearing the trail took about four days because he received an overwhelming response from the other Boy Scouts. When he put out the word he needed volunteers, almost every scout in the troop participated.

“I was very pleasantly surprised by the amount of people that showed up,” he said.

The bulk of the project was completed in March. In May, he went back to the battery with his scoutmaster and installed the signs. Winter weather had prevented planting the signs in March, he said.

“The grass just wasn’t warm enough,” he said.

The dedication was May 18 on Battery Day. The actual trail takes about five minutes to walk, he estimated, but the construction represents 308.5 man-hours, calculated by multiplying the number of people who worked on the job by the time spent.

Zachary used an online sign-up sheet to keep track of how many volunteers he could expect per day.

“I was out there with the scouts for three days,” he said, “and then there was another two days I went out with the historical society.”

His father and grandfather helped tag the trees that were going to be removed for the trail. They also marked the trees that were staying and drove some stakes into the ground to show the route.

“The hardest part was figuring out what you’re going to do and planning it,” he said. “To become an Eagle Scout, you have to do a service project, and it must benefit an organization other than the Boy Scouts of America.”

That means, he said, he had to go into the community and come up with an idea that people would support.

The trail was financed through donations of materials. Specifically, organizations gave him grass seed, lime for the trail and two pieces of wood. The other expenses were out of pocket and cost less than $10.

Zachary is the son of Peter and Shelly Neronha. He is a Jamestown native and attended the both island schools. He is currently a junior at Prout and vice president of his class. He plays trumpet in the school’s jazz band, belongs to the robotics club and is a math tutor.

He is considering a career in medical research or engineering.

“I also have a passion for history,” he said. “I like school. I enjoy all my classes.”

Zachary joined the Cub Scouts in fourth grade and eventually moved up to Boy Scouts. He has 30 merit badges. His favorite is probably the aviation badge, he said.

“I also have the rarest badge,” he added. That’s for bugle. He learned to play and mastered 10 calls.

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