MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Mahopac town parks will once again be the beneficiaries of some ambitious Eagle Scout projects aimed at improving the park experience.
Last week, at its May 16 meeting, the Town Board gave the green light to two projects—one for Sycamore Park and one for Volz Park on Crest Drive. The two Scouts had given presentations of their projects to the board the week before.

“Both of these projects came from the list of possible projects we keep in the office,” said Jim Gilchrist, director of the Recreation and Parks Department. “These are all projects we are looking to do around town. Anytime a Scout comes into the office, we will hand him the list. It is based on things we see coming up in the future and things that are lagging behind.”

Gilchrist said one of the projects that has been “lagging behind” is the refurbishing of deteriorating hiking trails at the little-known Volz Park, a 15-acre parcel that was donated to the town in 2004. The trail system was created in 2006 but hasn’t been maintained.

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“The conditions have worsened, and the trails have deteriorated,” said Mario Termine of Troop 371. “I would create new trail maps, since the original copies have been lost, and create new trails, clear the trash and re-mark the trails with trail markers so you don’t get lost.”

Termine will also restore the garden by the trail entrance with new plants and new mulch and build two benches for the entrance with recycled pallets.
Termine said he will also create a QR (quick response) code that hikers can download onto their phones to quickly access trail information. A QR code is a barcode, a machine-readable optical label, that contains information about the item to which it is attached. Hikers will be able to swipe their phones over the code and instantly receive trail information.

“It will pull the [trail] map up on their phone and that will include things like trail distances, trail difficulty, time to walk it—all based on the trail color,” Termine explained.
Councilman Jonathan Schneider said the timing of Termine’s project is perfect because the town has been approached by a resident who is looking to donate land located right next to Volz Park. 

“So, to have you take on this project is a great start to the future of the park,” Schneider said. “It is a park that most people don’t even know about in this town and it hardly gets used.”

Scout Thomas Matta has elected to construct a gaga ball pit at Sycamore Park. Gaga ball is a variant of dodgeball that is played with one ball. The game combines dodging, striking, running and jumping, with the objective of being the last person standing. Players hit the ball at each other with their hands and are eliminated if the ball strikes them on or below the knee. The game is commonly played inside a fenced-in hexagonal pit.

Matta proposes to build a 30-inch-high fence made of pressure-treated wood for the playing area. It will be 20 feet in diameter. He will use stone dust (decomposed granite) for the flooring. The pit will include a metal sign that will explain the rules of the game.

“The first step is to clear out the area where it will be built,” Matta told the board. “We will make it look nicer; plant a few shrubs.”

The gaga pit will be built near the children’s playground at Sycamore, near the blue building that is the former theater.

The original estimated cost of the gaga pit project is $3,500, but a majority of that is for the stone dust, which was originally estimated to cost $2,200. Matta said that the estimate was based on retail prices at Home Depot and he was looking for a way to buy in bulk at a reduced cost. Members of the board said they would put him in touch with local contractors who could find bulk prices or even have the material donated for the project.

“My kids are going to be going crazy for [the gaga pit],” Schneider said. “They have been asking about it for three years. They’ve been going to other parks because we don’t have one here. They love it and every kid I talk to seems to think [it’s a good idea]. I think it’s going to be a fantastic project and I look forward to working with you on the fundraising. I can’t wait to see the finished product. Hopefully, it will get done soon.”

Both Scouts said they would raise funds for their projects through bake sales, car washes and donations sought from area businesses.