By Diana Bowley, Of the NEWS Staff - DEXTER — Times may be tough economically, but that hasn’t deterred a group of people from helping a Dexter boy become an Eagle Scout.
The Dexter region has shown an abundance of community spirit by donating supplies and offering free labor to help Kyle Wilson, 17, construct a 64-foot covered pedestrian bridge linking the Dexter Historical Society Museum to Wayside Park.
“I can’t believe I’m actually getting it done, I never thought I’d be doing anything like this,” Wilson said Saturday.
Since a community service project is required to obtain the rank of Eagle Scout, Wilson planned and organized the bridge project — with some help from family members, an engineer and town officials — and is now supervising its construction.
“It seems like the community has pulled through and donated a lot more than I thought they would,” Wilson said Saturday, as he and his Scoutmaster, Andy Mitchell, watched the groundwork on the banks of Mill Stream.
Although the project is not designed to benefit Scouting, it has done just that. “Some people didn’t even know we [the Scouts] existed and then I started this project and now there’s a lot more people that know we are here,” Wilson said.
At one point, the local Scout troop was down to the scoutmaster and Wilson, but today the troop is thriving with 15 members. Another 15 to 20 boys are rising through the ranks as Cub Scouts, and Wilson hopes that these members will carry on the tradition of helping to improve their community.
The idea for Wilson’s project came from Rick Whitney, a history teacher at Dexter Regional High School, who also happens to be the curator of the museum. Wilson, who advanced to the rank of Life Scout after volunteering at the museum, said Whitney told him that historical society members had once contemplated building a bridge to link the park to the museum.
“It just kind of came up in a conversation one time and I just decided to go for it,” said Wilson, a Bangor Daily News carrier and Guilford Texaco Station assistant.
Wilson planned the project last winter, took measurements this spring at the site and enlisted the aid of Ted Bryant of Dexter, a former drafting instructor at Dexter Regional High School, to help draw the plans for the bridge. He then made a pitch to Dexter Town Council members, who embraced the project and agreed to help fund it and to get approval from the Department of Environmental Protection.
“I think it’s great. We don’t get too many young people to take on a project of this magnitude,” Councilor Peter Haskell said Saturday.
Wilson initially had planned to install a 20-foot bridge over the 12-foot span across the small stream, but an engineer recommended a 64-foot-long bridge which caused the young man briefly to reconsider the project since he has to complete it before he turns 18 on Aug. 19. He agreed to forge ahead and everything soon fell into place.
Because Scouting is a network throughout the state, it didn’t take Wilson long to acquire what he needed for the project. “I’ve been using my resources,” he said. “I tell what I need to the Scout leaders and they point me in the right direction.”
Those resources helped enlist the aid of Cianbro officials, who donated and delivered 10 44-foot steel beams. Other donors include: Steve Wilbur and Dexter Lumber Co. employees, who volunteered their time to help unload the beams; Haley Construction Co. of Sangerville, who supplied the concrete blocks which Dexter Lumber Co. employees delivered, and Matt McKusick of McKusick’s Construction, who donated the excavation work. In addition, Wilson’s dad and his grandfather John Wilson did the welding on the steel beams and are helping the young man build the covered bridge, which will be open on the sides but will have a railing.
Community organizations also have contributed money to the project, including $2,000 from the VFW, $500 from the historical society, $500 from the Dexter Sunrise Kiwanis and more than $2,000 from the town. A resident, who had heard about the project, donated $25.
Wilson has planned a tribute to thank those who assisted in the project, but would not divulge its nature.
“This project just made me realize the community is willing to give,” Wilson said. “It has been a long learning process, it really has, but it makes me feel good that we’re all doing it because we want to.”
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