2020 Western Region Eagle Project of the Year: Making the outdoors more accessible

Tanner smoothing concrete

Try this one-question test when assessing an Eagle Scout project idea: Does it come from the heart?

In my experience, Scouts who answer yes stay motivated throughout the demanding process of planning, developing and giving leadership to others as they uplift their community in a meaningful way.

Tanner Hyde’s Eagle project fits that test perfectly. His idea, which began with a simple desire to help his sisters fish, blossomed into a kindhearted gesture that helps an entire city.

Two years ago, Tanner and his family were enjoying a day at LaPrele Park in Laramie, Wyo. Tanner knew the fishing on Huck Finn Lake was better on the east side and wanted his sisters to join him there. But one problem: The only path to that prime location included a dirt trail, steps and a bridge.

Tanner’s sisters, Audralyn and Nora, have a disease called Sanfilippo syndrome. Audralyn uses a wheelchair, and Nora has trouble navigating steps.

“I wanted to make it easier for them to come fish with us,” Tanner tells Bryan on Scouting. “Leadership is about learning what needs to be done, then helping others to see it as well.”

Tanner led a group of volunteers as they replaced the dirt and steps with a smooth sidewalk and ramp. Now anyone — bikers, parents with strollers and anyone with mobility needs — can get up and over the bridge with ease.

For making a city park more accessible, the Eagle Scout from Troop 138 of Laramie, Wyo. (Longs Peak Council), received the 2020 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award for the Western Region.

The 2020 Adams awards, detailed at the end of this post, recognize outstanding Eagle projects completed by young people who earned Eagle in 2019.

Tanner and family posing at project site

A year of planning

Teenagers who need instant gratification probably shouldn’t attempt an Eagle project.

Tanner had to craft a proposal, get approval from the city, secure his Scout council’s official OK, find funding and recruit volunteers — all before opening a single bag of cement.

“It was surprising how much planning and preparation it took,” Tanner says. “I thought building it would be the hardest part, but it only took a week versus the year of planning beforehand.”

Funding for the project came from the city itself. Laramie leaders had considered building a concrete path to the bridge a year before Tanner approached them. Back then, they estimated the project would cost $30,000. Tanner told the city he could do it for just the cost of materials: $7,000.

“It’s a no-brainer, the city paying only $7,000 versus $30,000,” Tanner’s dad, Braeden, told Laramie Live. “As far as an Eagle project goes, this is a big undertaking. But Tanner has done very well with it.”

Tanner smoothing out concrete path

Learning to lead others

Tanner, who is now 16, says he was initially hesitant to lead a group that included adults three times his age and people with more far experience in construction.

“As kids, we’re usually the ones following directions, not giving them,” he says. “At times, it was very tempting to just let the adults make the decisions. But after a year of planning, I was the one who knew why everything was designed the way it was, so I had to make sure the design was followed.”

Tanner organized his volunteers using the patrol method. He split everyone into groups and asked each group’s most experienced member to be its leader. When he had instructions, he relayed them to the leaders to share with their teams.

But that wasn’t the end. In Scouting, leaders don’t sit around as others work.

“I went from group to group offering suggestions and an extra hand wherever it was needed,” Tanner says. “A good leader doesn’t push other people to do what he doesn’t want to do but leads by example.”

Tanner's group smoothing out the path

Accepting help

A good leader can’t do it alone, either.

Tanner received valuable mentorship from his dad, who is also his Scoutmaster and served as the project’s civil engineer.

“He taught me the principles of engineering — from analyzing the dirt to surveying the land to designing the path,” Tanner says. “He led me through the design process and taught me to use AutoCAD [design and drafting software].”

Tanner and another Scout tighten the bolts on the ramp's railing.

Advice for younger Scouts

As the architect of an award-winning Eagle project, Tanner has advice worth sharing with Scouts in your unit.

  1. Find a need that affects you personally, “so you will maintain interest throughout the project.”
  2. Start early; don’t procrastinate.
  3. Use the Eagle Project Workbook to break the project up into manageable pieces. “You will be overwhelmed thinking of it as a whole.”
  4. Don’t try to do everything alone. “Get help when you need it, but don’t pawn it off either.”

The finished ramp

The aftermath

One of the most rewarding parts of completing an Eagle project is looking back on your work months or years later. Tanner returns to the park often and enjoys seeing people use the path and bridge he helped build.

The city of Laramie asked Tanner to make a presentation at its annual disabilities awareness conference, sharing what he learned “about how individuals can help the community become more accessible to people with disabilities.”

But even with all the recognition for his efforts, Tanner doesn’t feel like he performed some sort of miracle. He just did what he could to help solve a problem.

“Everyone keeps telling me this was a huge project,” Tanner says. “I just see that it was something that needed to be done, and we had the ability to do it.”

2020 Eagle Scout Projects of the Year

This post is one of a quartet of articles recognizing four outstanding Eagle projects by Class of 2019 Eagle Scouts.

Each project covered in these posts received the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award.

The award process begins at the council level, where each council can nominate one outstanding project to the National Eagle Scout Association. From there, one project from each BSA region — Central, Northeast, Western and Southern — is selected to receive the Adams award.

Regional recipients get $500 each for future educational purposes or to attend a national or international Scouting event or facility. Their councils also get $500 apiece.

Next, a special selection committee of the National Eagle Scout Association selects a national winner from among those four recipients. The national recipient gets $2,500 for future educational purposes or to attend a national or international Scouting event or facility. Their council gets $2,500, too.

2020 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award recipients

  • National winner (representing the Central Region): Alex Arehart of the Tecumseh Council
    • Designed, engineered and 3D-modeled an outdoor seating structure at local STEM school
  • Southern Region winner: Mason Wettengel of the Middle Tennessee Council
    • Renovated five apartments for veterans
  • Northeast Region winner: Timothy Maron of the Columbia-Montour Council
    • Built a “tiny house” for a previously homeless veteran
  • Western Region winner: Tanner Hyde of the Longs Peak Council
    • Improved wheelchair accessibility at a local park

Meet the Adams award recipients live on Facebook

Aaron Derr and Gina Circelli from Boys’ Life magazine will interview each of these recipients live on Facebook. Check out the schedule below. Missed one? The interviews will live forever on the Boys’ Life Facebook page so you can see what you missed.

  • Alex Arehart, national winner: 2 p.m. CDT on June 19
  • Mason Wettengel, Southern Region winner: 2 p.m. CDT on June 22
  • Timothy Maron, Northeast Region winner: 2 p.m. CDT on June 29
  • Tanner Hyde, Western Region winner: 2 p.m. CDT on July 6
About Bryan Wendell 3041 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.