For Eagle project, teens build trails at Raptor Center

by Frank DeLoache

From left, Brandt Woolf, Michael Ridenhour and Kate Holyfield drill holes in landscaping timbers, which framed the new gravel walkways Woolf and his friends constructed at Carolina Raptor Center as part of his Eagle Scout project. (Courtesy of Brandt Woolf)

As a kid, Brandt Woolf remembers he loved driving from south Charlotte with his parents to visit the Carolina Raptor Center, on the grounds of Latta Plantation Park in Huntersville.

Whenever family and friends would visit from out of town, he’d always suggest a trip to the regional rehabilitation center for injured raptors, such as bald eagles. Maybe he knew that he’d return someday to complete his own final project to attain the rank of Eagle Scout.

Now 18, Brandt is a longtime member of Boy Scout Troop 116, based at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Carmel Road, and a senior at Charlotte Country Day School. He’s earned 27 merit badges, more than the required minimum for Eagle, and served in the top leadership position in the troop.

So earlier this year, he talked with his advisor about the community service project required of all Eagle Scouts, and his advisor suggested the raptor center, which felt like a homecoming of sorts for Brandt.

He contacted Jim Warren, executive director of the raptor center and an Eagle Scout himself. Warren suggested Brandt contribute to a system of gravel walkways planned for the working area behind the center.

“We started about five years ago,” Warren said this week. “We used to have nothing but mulch or dirt around our whole property. We redid the trail system on the public side, and that took 4 1/2 years to finish. It worked so well, we decided to do the other side as well. We started that process about a year ago, and Brandt constructed trails immediately behind the rehab hospital, where several trails come together.”

First, Brandt had to raise the money to pay for his project. He sent letters to friends and people he knew in the troop, explaining his plan, and they supported him with donations totaling $1,000. He also got a boost from Vulcan Materials, which will donate gravel to the raptor center.

He used the money he raised to buy landscaping timbers, which he and his helpers used to frame the walkways, and other materials, such as rebar, to anchor the landscaping timbers. Brandt and volunteers he recruited began the project on July 27. They cleared and dug out 300 feet of 3-foot wide walkways, which they filled with 8 tons of gravel.

They anchored the landscaping timbers in the ground with rebar and drilled holes in each end of the timbers, linking them to each other with more rebar, Brandt said.

In all, his crews – ranging from  three to eight people – contributed 125 hours of time on five work days, finishing on Aug. 2.

“The gravel trails are a great addition,” Warren said. “You can see where you’re walking know. We don’t track mud into the hospital, and we don’t have to worry about slipping in mud while we’re carrying a bird. It’s also easier to maintain now.”

With money he raised for the project, Brandt also donated a power drill and circular saw to the center, and he had $400 left. He gave the money to the raptor center, through the Arts and Science Council’s Power2Give program, and the Knight Foundation matched his gift with another $400.

“Brandt really went beyond the call of duty with his project,” said Warren, whose son, Andrew, is a Life Scout, just one rank below Eagle. “Brandt really deserves congratulations. His family was great. His father was out here. A lot of high school students don’t talk to adults well, don’t express themselves. But Brandt was a pleasure to work with.”

Brandt is preparing to appear before a Boy Scout Board of Review, which must recommend him for the rank of Eagle Scout. He’s proud to say he and three other friends started as Cub Scouts in Pack 116 at St. John’s Episcopal more than a decade ago. Two of those friends, Charlie Sowers and Brandon Ho, have received their Eagle Scout badges, and Ben Hinson, the fourth member of the group is working to complete his project work, said Brandt, the son of Jack and Melissa Woolf.

Brandt’s a member of the Order of the Arrow, an elite leadership group within Scouting, and competes on Country Day’s varsity lacrosse and cross country teams. He’s just applied to the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, N.Y., where he hopes to study computer engineering and, possibly, astronomy.

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