Creating a link benefits Boy Scout, Forks park and the community

The Wabash River is visible in the background as Kevin King stands inside a campground ring on the heavily-wooded Ehler Island at the Forks of the Wabash Historic Park. King is coordinating the construction of two accessible campsites on the island as he works toward his Boy Scout Eagle award.
The Wabash River is visible in the background as Kevin King stands inside a campground ring on the heavily-wooded Ehler Island at the Forks of the Wabash Historic Park. King is coordinating the construction of two accessible campsites on the island as he works toward his Boy Scout Eagle award. Photo by Cindy Klepper.

Originally publshed Oct. 15, 2015.

Kevin King was looking for a project that would benefit his community.

The Forks of the Wabash Historic Park was looking to develop a nearby island.

Jim Scheiber, a member of the Forks board and a friend of the King family, linked the two.

A campground then began taking shape on the island — and King was well on his way to joining the ranks of Eagle Scouts.

The campground, to be completed this spring, will offer a primitive camping experience to people with and without disabilities. King is quick to point out that, although he directed the project, he had lots of help.

“Last week, we had 10 people, and this week about 20,” King said in late September. Many members of his work crew have been fellow scouts from Troop 130; he’s also enlisted outside help, including his father, his grandfather and another Forks board member, Dave Hacker, who is heading up the entire Ehler Island project.

He also got some assistance from Zahm Excavating in acquiring stone for the site, along with a truck to haul the stone in, and Ace Hardware, in renting a skid loader to clear the site.

King’s scoutmaster, John Bostel, helped supervise the project and offered construction advice.

“First we had to clear the land,” explains King, a junior at Huntington North High School. “It was over my head, and I’m six foot one. I had to push my way in and cut down trees.”

Later, the volunteers moved the stone across the river in wheelbarrows, raked the stone into a six-inch bed and planted grass seed where the tents will be pitched.

All that work resulted in two campsites, both built to Department of Natural Resources specifications to allow them to be used by people with and without disabilities.

“The first one is a circle, 50 feet in diameter,” King explains. “The outer 10 feet is grass, and the inner part is stone. You camp on the grass and cook and put tables on the stone.”

The stone will compact, providing a hard, flat surface and grates on the fire rings will swing out so that no one has to lean directly over the fire to reach the cooking pot.

King says the site is big enough for “a moderate group of people, maybe 10 to 15 people.”

The second campsite is similar, although its shape is oval rather than circular.

Both are located on Ehler Island, a small island in the Wabash River adjacent to the main Forks property. The Forks board of directors plans to build a bridge this spring connecting the main property to the island, says Susan Taylor, board president.

Taylor says the bridge will be built in a “board and rope” style to accommodate the varying water levels of the river at different times of the year. It will be open only to pedestrians, she says.

A launch site is now under construction on the main Forks property, Taylor says, to allow canoes and kayaks to be launched into the Wabash River.

The Forks received a $56,000 grant in early 2013 from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources in conjunction with the Wabash River Heritage Corridor Commission. That grant is designated for the construction of the path and footbridge to the island and carries with it a requirement that the Forks come up with matching funds — a match that can include donation of labor.

King and his crew were more than willing to provide some of the labor.

“We’re supposed to look for projects that would be beneficial for the community,” King says, explaining the requirements for earning an Eagle award. “I started looking for a project last summer and heard about this last fall.”

Scheiber, a family friend, was the one who suggested the island campsites, King says. King’s mother, Denise King, is now also a member of the Historic Forks board of directors, he notes, but King points out that she didn’t join the board until five or six months after he’d decided to work on the Forks project.

Scheiber, a long-time member of the Forks board who served as the board’s president for several years, says this isn’t the first time an aspiring Eagle Scout has worked on the island. Several years ago, Scheiber worked with another local Scout, J.T. Goulding, who cleared a trail around the perimeter of the island. While King was working on the campsites, he also cleared growth from the trail Goulding created.

King organized meetings with the excavation crew, Forks representatives, suppliers and his volunteer workers. Although the bulk of the labor occurred this fall, it will take until spring for the stone to be sufficiently compacted and the grass to fill in, King notes.

Taylor says the Forks board is still formulating policies governing use of the island campsites. The sites are primitive, and campers will have to carry in and carry out all supplies. The Forks board will eventually come up with a reservation system, Scheiber says.

Initially, though, the sites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at no charge, Scheiber says.

“I think it will be great for youth groups, church groups, families,”  Scheiber says. “That’s who we’re trying to attract.
“And the logistics are great. For anybody who lives in town, it’s just two minutes away.”

As for King, he’s well on his way to earning Eagle rank, an award achieved by fewer than 4 percent of scouts nationwide.

He has just one more requirement to meet.

“I still need to earn my citizenship in the community merit badge,” he says.