2021 Southern Region Eagle Scout Project of the Year: Helping prevent river disasters

Growing up in Tennessee’s Warren County — home to three rivers — Hannah Bailey witnessed a fair share of troubling news come from the waterways.

“My family had been paddling the rivers for a really long time,” says the 17-year-old of Troop 1725 in McMinnville, Tenn. “We saw people not really knowing what the river was like and what they were getting themselves into. They can get themselves in trouble if they don’t plan accordingly. We’d see stories in the newspaper about people needing to get rescued.”

The rivers are fairly easy to navigate, she says, but with many twists and turns, it can take a long time to travel. Those twists and turns would also collect a lot of trash from upriver. Every year, tons of trash would be fished out of the county’s rivers during clean-up events.

So, Hannah came up with an idea to help solve both problems: install mile markers and signs along the rivers. The mile markers would help clean-up crews’ and rescue teams’ communications, so they would know exactly where to go, based on their mission. They would also aid paddlers in trouble, so they could tell rescuers what marker they just passed. She also planned to install kiosks to hold the signs at a dozen river access points, so paddlers would know what to look for during their trips. All of this would support the county’s river safety programming.

The kiosk project qualified for her Eagle Scout project while the mile marker project served as her Venturing Summit Award project.

For her service, Hannah received the 2021 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Service Project of the Year Award for the Southern Region.

Adams Award eligibility is determined by when a young person completes their Eagle Scout board of review. For the 2021 awards, eligible Eagle Scouts had to have passed their Eagle board of review between Jan. 1, 2020, and Feb. 8, 2021.

The honor also includes $500 award for future education endeavors or to attend a national or international Scouting event or facility. Her council, the Middle Tennessee Council, also receives $500.

 

Miles marked

To cover the Collins River, Barren Fork River and Hickory Creek — 100 total miles, 87 of which are navigable year-round — Hannah worked with a local hardware store, state park agencies, city and county governments and a local Rotary club.

She drew up blueprints for the kiosks, which would be installed on weather-treated wooden posts in the ground. Information on the signs would include Leave No Trace principles, emergency contact information and what to do if help is needed.

“The biggest challenge was contacting property owners; a lot of the river access points are on private land or privately managed public land,” she says. “There was one access point that there was one landowner was OK with it, and the other was not, so I had to switch my plans of putting the sign on one side of the river to putting it on the other side. But most landowners were supportive of the idea because those people that live on the river know of the problems that arise.”

This project would not only benefit the thousands of those traveling the river every year, but those living along the river, she says. It’d also benefit the local government and Rotary club, which had wanted to do a similar project for years, but estimated the cost to hire someone to do it would total close to $54,000 and take more than five years to complete. The club also wanted to use expensive materials that would last for several decades.

Hannah chose more affordable materials and designs as well as recruited more than 50 volunteers to get the project done in four months for less than $2,900. She knew the waterways were prime areas for flooding and vandalism — cheaper materials could be easily replaced if they were damaged or vandalized.

The impact

Hannah led Scouts from her troop and Venturers from her Venturing Crew, Crew 309, who helped put together and set up the kiosks. It marked the first time they got together in person since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Everyone was in high spirits, especially after the first kiosk was installed.

Working with younger Scouts and older Venturers was an exercise in leading by example. She wouldn’t ask someone to do something that she wasn’t willing to do herself. And when a Eagle Scout project stems from personal passion for a specific cause, that would not be an issue.

“If you can find something you’re already passionate about, the impact you have and the impact it will have on you is going to be strong,” she says. “Find what you’re passionate about and stick with it.”

Hannah’s family moved after she completed her project, so they haven’t been down the rivers. She has kept in touch with the county’s rescue squad, though.

“They have rescued quite a few people based on the kiosks out there,” she says.

Clean-up crews have also pulled eight tons of garbage from the river following her project. Well-marked riverways encouraged more clean-up days and year-round adopt-a-mile efforts.

Hannah became the first female Eagle Scout in her county and was part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. She also earned the Venturing Summit Award.

She’s the first female recipient of an Adams regional award.

2021 Eagle Scout Projects of the Year

This post is part of our series spotlighting Eagle Scouts who received the Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award in 2021. Here are the four winners:

2021 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award recipients

  • National winner (representing the Northeast Region): Christopher Thomas Adam of the New Birth of Freedom Council, who led a team that designed and constructed an educational exhibit about D-Day, the Normandy landings in World War II
  • Central Region winner: Logan Goodbred of the Three Fires Council, who led a team that created a memorial for first responders
  • Southern Region winner: Hannah Kathryn Bailey of the Middle Tennessee Council, who led a team that installed mile markers and informational kiosks along the Collins River
  • Western Region winner: Mateo David Sabio Paese of the Pacific Skyline Council, who led a team that assembled water filtration systems at 14 different villages in Honduras

How to nominate an Eagle Scout for the Adams Award

If you know an Eagle Scout whose project is worthy of consideration for the Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year award, or ESSPY, please nominate them.

Find a nomination form, judging criteria and more information at this link.

Any Eagle Scout, their parents or any registered BSA volunteer (with the Eagle Scout’s permission) may submit an Eagle Scout service project for consideration. Each council will then nominate one outstanding project to the National Eagle Scout Association.

About Michael Freeman 286 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.