December 1, 2021

3 Eagle Scouts from Homer use skills for good cause

Friends all the way

Katie Keyser/Living and Leasure Editor

From left, Gabriel Derksen, 15, Riley DeLage, 16, and Garrett Sickmon, 15, all of Homer, at Lime Hollow Nature Center on Tuesday. The three boys, members of Troop 79 in Homer, all completed their Eagle Scout badge this month with a formal Boy Scout ceremony. Derksen and a crew made this dry wood shelter for his community service project. The other two boys helped.

The toughest part of completing Gabriel Derksen’s Eagle Scout project — building a wood storage shelter at
Lime Hollow Nature Center — was planning it.

The 15-year-old Homer boy said making the design was hard.

“I knew pretty much next to nothing before doing it,” he said Tuesday at the overnight camp site where the shed is located.

The teen secured donations of lumber and rooffng from Baker Miller Lumber of Groton and Builders Best of Cortlandville, said his mother, Karen Derksen. And he corralled 14 people to do the work over three days in October.

“It was good. Lime Hollow liked it,” he said.

Derksen is one of three teens in Troop 79 of Homer, under the direction of Scout-master Michael May, who received their Eagle Scout badge Saturday.

Garrett Sickmon, 15, and Riley DeLage, 16, both of Homer, also earned their Eagle Scout, a designation only achieved by 2 to 3 percent of Boy Scouts, May said.

Sickmon made a deer exclosure to protect native plants at Lime Hollow and DeLage did trail maintenance and bridge repair at Camp Owahta in McGraw.

“It’s sort of unique, all three of them were friends all the way through,” May said.

They had the support of their families, not taking charge, but getting them to stores, job sites and Boy Scout meetings, he said.

Usually May, who’s been involved with the Boy Scouts since 1996, will have one to two Eagle Scouts a year. “To have three at the same time is a first time for me,” he said.

Eagle Scouts must be active in their troops, demonstrate a helpful spirit, earn 21 merit badges, have a job in their troop for at least six months, and plan, develop and lead a service project helpful to a church, school or community group.

Their project must be approved by the organization that will bene t from it, their Scoutmaster and the Boy Scout Council.

Derksen comes to Lime Hollow every year and has camped in its woods, so he knew how valuable it was for campers to have dry wood. Now they don’t have to search every time they need to make a campfire. It will be in a 6- by 12-foot structure.

Garrett Sickmon said the biggest skill he learned from his Eagle Scout project — making a fence to keep deer away from a particular native plant — was leadership.

“Which is what the purpose is about, since it’s putting you in charge of the program. And problem solving,” Sickmon said.

He and his team erected an acre worth of fence, 30,000 square feet, on the Bog Spur area at the Cortlandville nature center. Deer were eating native plants and Lime Hollow officials wanted to protect the showy orchids growing in the area. Biologists want to see the effects of deer grazing. Peter Harrity, associate director at Lime Hollow gave him the idea.

The Eagle Scout is a significant undertaking for young men, said Glen Reisweber, executive director at Lime Hollow, who’s been working with Eagle Scouts since he started at Lime Hollow as a volunteer 12 years ago.
Both Derksen’s and Sickmon’s projects were significant construction projects, he said. They had to coach others who have the technical skill to see it through.

Katie Keyser/Living and Leisure Editor

This Eagle Scout badge represents years of work, between earning 21 merit badges, being a leader in a troop and implementing a community service project.

The deer exclosure is worth about $2,500 and the wood storage is valued at $1,800. That means a lot, he said, more important is how Eagle Scout projects are comprehensive, needing money, skill, time, administration and energy to bring about. He’s seen more than 40 completed at Lime Hollow.

“Some of these guys have to get permits,” he said.

Sickmon directed about 10 people over two weekends in May to create the exclosure. Supplies were donated by Lime Hollow. “There’s a company called Deer Busters. They have a video of how to set this up,” Sickmon said.

“I learned how rocky the soil was,” he said. And no, his parents didn’t take the lead.

“You get to tell your parents what to do,” said DeLage, 16.

“My project was at Camp Owahta,” he said. “We redid the ropes course, mulched it, made it look nice. We widened trees, removed trees, opened about a mile or two miles of trails. And we rebuilt three bridges, removing broken parts and replacing them. You can walk on it now.”

“Directing people to do this project and getting it done within the time limit was the hardest,” DeLage said.

He directed nearly a dozen people over the two-day project last summer. He obtained donations of mulch and wood by Paul Bunyon of Preble and gravel from Suit Kote.

Adults worked power tools and chain saws, because Scouts are not allowed to, said his mother Jodie DeLage.

“I feel like it was a great honor,” Riley DeLage said. “And a very supportive group by Mike May and the other Boy Scouts.”