Eagle-eyed Scouts proving a big boon for Basalt | AspenTimes.com

Eagle-eyed Scouts proving a big boon for Basalt

Kyle Zajac, 17, of Basalt holds Gus, a rescued dog, in the shelter that he helped rebuild at the Alpine Meadows Ranch and Kennel. Zajac spent 500 hours building a new roof and making other repairs for the shelter. Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

A decade or so of dedication to the Boy Scouts is paying off this summer for five midvalley friends – and for Basalt.The five friends are all working on major civic improvement projects that will help them earn their Eagle Scout designation, the highest that the organization gives. To become an Eagle Scout, the boys must plan, organize and complete a project that benefits the community and requires a minimum of 100 hours of effort by themselves and their volunteers.Kyle Zajac, a 17-year-old who is entering his senior year at Basalt High School, gathered about 30 volunteers to improve a shelter for homeless dogs. Ollie Bode of Alpine Meadows Ranch and Kennel in Holland Hills has donated space for nine years for two organizations that take in homeless dogs and try to find them new families. She said it was her way of providing a community service.The old space, separate from her commercial kennel, was a fenced in area that had tarps for cover. The dogs had little protection from the elements. Zajac and his volunteers improved the 50-foot long, 15-foot wide enclosure and erected a roof to give the dogs much-appreciated shade during this hot summer.”First I just took it on as my project and didn’t see how big it was going to be,” said Zajac.Planning, organizing and completing it took 500 hours – five times the required amount.Zajac said 30 volunteers helped with construction last month. Local hardware stores chipped in with supplies, including $2,000 from BMC West. Public fund-raising throughout the midvalley produced the money needed to feed the volunteers and buy materials not covered by donations.When asked what he learned from the project, Zajac said, “Leadership, for sure.”He wanted to help homeless dogs after learning of their plight while working at RJ Paddywacks in Basalt. Homeless dogs are brought there twice per week by the Animal Rescue Foundation in hopes of placing them with new owners.Despite the massive undertaking, Zajac said “the project itself was the easy part.” Now he is filling out 50 to 60 pages of paperwork – describing the project and demonstrating how it was undertaken – for review by the Scouts’ state council. That will determine if he gets his Eagle Scout designation.One of his colleagues in Basalt Boy Scout Troop 242 has also completed his project. Jason Troyer, who will also be a senior this year, built steps between Basalt Elementary School and the popular Swinging Bridge over the Fryingpan River. Kids and other bridge users had to either climb or negotiate a short, steep slope to use the bridge. The hillside was bare from years of use.Troyer organized volunteers and placed sturdy stairs that make the route much more manageable.Three other Basalt Scouts, all of them entering their senior year in high school, are preparing projects this summer. They are: Riley Eaton, who is going to paint the Basalt Regional Library. Robbie Jeffrey, who will build five benches to be placed around town. and Zachary Baker, who is building a ramp that will help disabled people reach a horse saddle at a riding arena.John Eaton, Riley’s dad, who helps with Scouting activities, said it’s been rewarding to see the five boys stick with Scouting all these years and finally close in on the culmination of those efforts.”It’s great when a group of kids who have spent so many years of their young lives doing things that matter are about to be recognized as Eagle Scouts,” he said. “Credit should also be given to the parents of these boys. They were all intimately involved in their boy’s development through the years.”Zajac, whose dad, Chet, is the Trooper 242 Scout leader, reflected back on his 11 years in the organization.”Cub Scouts, it was little kid kind of things, arts and crafts in somebody’s house. Boy Scouts, it just rocks,” he said.He and his mates have backpacked, gone river rafting, attended Bronco and Rockies games together – all sorts of “guy things.”But it’s not all fun and games. Scouts must earn a minimum of 21 Merit Badges to earn the Eagle Scout distinction. Some specific badges are required and others are electives. Zajac estimated he’s earned 30.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com