The outdoors has become more accessible to Safe Harbor residents thanks to an Eagle Scout project recently completed by Russell High School junior Joe Van Deren and fellow Scouts from Troop 154.
He and his helpers created a walking trail that is a half mile long and winds through the wooded hillsides on Safe Harbor’s campus in Ashland.
Van Deren has been part of the Scouting program since kindergarten, and when it came time for him to pick an Eagle Scout project, he naturally thought of Safe Harbor of Northeast Kentucky.
“My family is very involved with Safe Harbor,” he said, adding that his mother, Heather, helps plan the domestic violence shelter’s annual fundraiser, Lobster Fest, through her volunteer work with the Boyd County Medical Alliance. “Also, Ann Perkins, Safe Harbor’s executive director, was very helpful when my grandmother’s house burned down.”
Van Deren said he wanted a project that combined hands-on work with his love of the outdoors.
“It took a lot of planning, clearing a path, raking and lots of other work,” he explained. “The trail is mostly downhill to a bridge, and along the way, we added birdhouses and blazed the trees with purple paint to show hikers how to follow the trail.”
Assisting Van Deren were Jerod Holsinger, Nick Daniels, Tanner Riffe, Ian Fried, Will Frye, Aaron Sexton, Hunter Couchot and Van Deren’s parents, Dr. and Mrs. John Van Deren.
He estimated the work took about 100 collective hours during two weekends, one of which was during the area’s first brush with winter’s cold temperatures and freezing rain.
“I hope the trail provides another route for Safe Harbor’s residents to get outdoors,” Van Deren said. “I also like the opportunity to provide something good for the community.”
For a project to qualify as an Eagle Scout service project, the Scout must plan, develop and give leadership to others in a project that benefits a church, school or community.
Safe Harbor is among the state’s largest domestic violence shelters and assists domestic violence victims and their children in Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Elliott and Lawrence counties.