If people want parks, they have to be willing to work for them. That was true back in the early 1900s when John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, worked for the protection of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the redwood forests. It’s true today right here in Greenwood, S.C., where local citizens are volunteering to create a network of parks for the people.
Fourteen-year-old John Tarasidis is one of those volunteers, according to Klaus Neubner, who is maintenance chairman and director with the Greater Greenwood Parks and Trails Foundation, Inc.
A member of the Boy Scouts of America since fourth grade when he joined the Cub Scouts, Tarasidis has now completed requirements for Eagle Scout status.
For his Eagle project, he improved an access point to the West Cambridge Trail, which included building a handrail for the existing steps, cleaning the area and adding gravel to combat erosion. The steps themselves were the project of yet another Eagle Scout.
“It is impressive to see the commitment our Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts have made to improving and maintaining our parks,” said Neubner. “They have planted flower beds, built benches, sandboxes, steps and railings and held clean-up days. They do quality work, and the Parks Foundation is deeply grateful to these young people.”
For John Tarasidis, son of Dr. Greg and Jamie Tarasidis, the actual building of the park handrail was just the final step in meeting his Eagle Scout project requirements.
“An Eagle Scout project requires research, planning and leadership as well as the actual hands-on effort,” said Chip Stockman, scoutmaster for Troop 911 of which John is a member.
Depending on the project, the scout may have to work with landscapers and contractors. He has to secure the appropriate permits, materials and expertise. Most importantly, Eagle Scout projects always include leadership of others assisting with the project.
“John did all those things,” said Stockman. “Though at 14 he is one of the younger Eagle Scout candidates, he has always been focused. His accomplishments are right up there with those who are 18 when they earn Eagle status.”
It took John about 10 hours to build the galvanized pipe railing. “The hardest part of the project,” said John, “was designing a railing that would accommodate the changing slope of the hill and last for years to come.”
With a sash boasting the 42 merit badges he has earned and his Eagle Scout requirements completed, John now looks forward to mentoring younger scouts and assisting on other park initiatives.
Natalie Parramore, chairman, Greenwood Parks Commission, said that over the years scouts like John Tarasidis have played a vital role in enhancing Greenwood County’s parks. “We are proud to partner with these young people.”
There are still plenty of projects that could benefit from both scout and community volunteers said Neubner. Along the West Cambridge Trail, assistance is needed in the planting of trees, and the new Grace Street Park location offers numerous opportunities for civic organizations and concerned citizens.
Many are not aware that the Greater Greenwood Parks and Trails Foundation, Inc., has negotiated a long-term lease with the City of Greenwood for the 54–acre Grace Street property.
Billy Nicholson, president, Greater Greenwood Parks and Trails Foundation, said that a plan for the Grace Street Park must be submitted to Greenwood City Council by October 2013 and that the foundation will then have 10 years to develop a park on the property or the lease will terminate. Utilizing suggestions from park supporters and research from members of the Parks Foundation, local architects, led by Steve Dorn, are hard at work on a plan.
“We anticipate presenting the plan to the people of Greenwood through town meetings and through the press to gain their comments regarding the plans,” said Nicholson.
“I expect Boy and Girl Scouts all over Greenwood County will be volunteering at the Grace Street Park,” said scoutmaster Chip Stockman. “So we’re looking forward to seeing the architects’ plans.”
As for Eagle Scout candidate John Tarasidis, he said, “I have three more years in scouting, and I hope to be involved in more projects that benefit Greenwood’s parks.”