The Bridge to Eagle Scout: A Story about Reaching and Soaring

Wildlands Conservancy’s Emmaus-based Dorothy Rider Pool Wildlife Sanctuary is home to multiple meandering trails that twist pleasantly back through trees, across fields, and up into peaceful hilly forests. This past summer, if you happened to travel along the Backyard Conservation trail, you would hear the sound of hammers, along with general conversation and laughter as Scout Angel Herrera worked with a community of friends, family and other Scouts to complete his Eagle Scout project.

The project goal was to replace a footbridge over a gully that had become weakened by weather and age to allow safe passage for those who regularly enjoy the local, natural destination for hiking, birding, walking, moseying with their favorite four-legged friend (on-leash, of course), or as a participant in one of our hundreds of community and school education programs.

The project was Herrera’s final step towards reaching the highest rank in Scouting: becoming an Eagle Scout.  Herrera’s success places him among a very select group; only 3-5% of boy scouts achieve the rank of Eagle.

Herrera is, in fact, part of an even smaller pool. A young man in ascent, his flight-to-Eagle is a story about the intersection of equity and opportunities to soar.

Jimmy Torres, Urban Scouting Director at the Minsi Trails Council, speaks with great pride about boys like Herrera, who have grown through what is known as the Scoutreach program. The program specifically seeks out children from urban areas who would otherwise not have the knowledge of, nor the support to join the Boy Scouts.

Torres says, “Inner city kids face a unique set of challenges like transportation, finances and so on. These kids are often inside, at home, by themselves, in an attempt to keep them off the streets. Scouting is a welcome departure from that lifestyle.”

Scoutreach meets kids like Hererra where they’re at and involves them in positive, constructive activities focused on real-life skills, leadership, teamwork and civic responsibility. The program is now working with kids from 24 area schools. In the fall and early winter, through recruitment efforts, close to 700 kids become involved.

Wildlands’ engagements with Scouts like Herrera mirror the very juxtaposition that is so characteristic of our region. Our Lehigh Valley preserves lean against our area’s largest cities, so it makes a world of sense for Wildlands to continue our relationship with Scouts from all over the region as they seek to grow, learn and lead. They can take with them not only their experience with Wildlands, but also the valuable combination of urban sensibility and stewardship of nature, helping to proverbially (and literally in Herrera’s case) bridge the gap.

Young men can gain access to and learn about the importance of conservation, while Wildlands acquires assistance with various projects, from trail maintenance to invasive species management. Angel Herrera’s bridge took about 100 hours of labor, but it will be a lasting testament to the power of working together, being outdoors and the amazing extent of our reach when tasked to bridge a seemingly unassuming divide.