BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — Maumee High School senior William Ezakovich had two primary goals in mind as he was contemplating his Eagle Scout project.
The first objective was to fill a major need in the Maumee community and the second goal was to build something that he could look back on with a sense of satisfaction in his later years.
In early December of last year, William achieved both of those goals when he leveled the final shovelful of stone on a 21-step wooden stairway that he and his team of volunteers had carved into the earth along the left flank of the sledding hill at Side Cut Metropark in Maumee.
With the creation of this natural stairway, along with a 6-foot wooden fence at the top of the hill, William has created something that will help young sledding enthusiasts enjoy the fruits of his labor for years to come.
Children who live in Northwest Ohio understand that one of the primary benefits of enduring a long winter are those rare occasions when a significant snowfall dumps enough powder on the ground to warrant a trip to the Side Cut sledding hill for a few hours of thrills and chills with family and friends.
On such occasions, the happy chatter of excited young sledders can be heard from yards away and it’s one of the great memories that local adults look back on with fondness whenever they reminisce about their youth.
Going downhill is the fun part. Trudging back up the hill is not so much fun, however, and can often be very tiring and time-consuming, especially for young children and older adults.
With William’s creation, the sledders can get back up to the top of the hill faster and safer, and that means that young sledders can spend more time screaming in delight as they hurtle down the hill and less time huffing and puffing as they walk back up the hill with their sleds.
When considering ideas for possible Eagle Scout projects last year, William contacted Metroparks Toledo to see if they needed something done. “They provided a list of projects they were interested in doing at some point,” William said. “This one stuck out to me.”
The next step for William was to get the necessary signatures from the officials at the Metroparks, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) troop committee and the BSA district council, in order to make sure that the project met the criteria for Eagle Scout consideration.
Obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout is the highest achievement in Scouting and is attainable only by earning several merit badges over a period of a few years, culminating in the completion of a challenging, community-enriching Eagle Scout project by the time a Scout reaches the age of 18.
William had been steadily piling up the merit badges with his fellow Scouts in BSA Troop 210, which meets at Providence Lutheran Church in Holland. In November, William was ready to tackle his Eagle Scout project at Side Cut.
William had to convey to BSA officials that he was ready to begin his project by providing a description of the project, a list of materials needed, an estimate of costs involved and fundraising ideas in order to help finance the project.
“Originally, the Metroparks wanted the stairway to be more up the side of the hill, but then they changed the layout to make it lengthwise on the front of the hill, which I think is better,” noted William. Climbing up the side of the hill would have meant that sledders would be doing a lot more walking, defeating the purpose of saving time and energy for the kids.
William noted that other sledding hill projects he studied had consisted of several wooden-framed staircases with screened stone packed inside the framework of each ascending step. The screening material is porous enough to allow water to seep through, but tough enough to walk on, maintaining its solid shape despite continued wear and tear over the course of several years.
“I felt that was a good design for it, so I decided to use railroad ties for the steps because I figured it would be easier to get a donation for them rather than actual lumber,” William explained. “Also, railroad ties are designed to last a long time.”
William measured the area to see how many railroad ties he would need for the project. “We actually kind of overestimated, which is better than underestimating,” William noted. “Originally, the stairway was going to be half the width it is now, but we decided that we would have enough materials to make the steps wider.”
As he was seeking donations for materials, William was blessed to receive a large donation of railroad ties from A&K Railroad Materials Inc. on Hill Avenue in Toledo. “They donated 50 railroad ties, valued at $1,000,” said William’s father Phil, who also earned the rank of Eagle Scout 27 years ago.
Fencing was provided at a discount by Toledo Fence & Supply Co., also located on Hill Avenue. The company was able to reduce its prices on posts, panels and lumber for the fence that William and his volunteer squad constructed at the top of the sledding hill.
Rebar for securing the railroad ties was provided by Bayview Electric LLC, based in Maumee. Twenty 10-foot segments of rebar were donated by the firm. Chris Schrinel, owner of the company, also loaned William and his crew several specialty tools for cutting the rebar into the necessary lengths needed for the project.
Metroparks Toledo donated all the screening for the project, with enough material for four dump truck loads.
Home Depot also donated a $50.00 gift card for the cause, which came in handy later when William needed to purchase some last-minute materials.
Quite a few friends and family members donated cash to the project as well. The use of a forklift was provided by Skyworks Equipment Rental in Perrysburg, and the use of an excavator was provided free of charge by Link Excavating LLC from Petersburg, Mich.
While the forklift became available after William and his father had already unloaded all 50 of the railroad ties by hand, they were still able to utilize it for moving materials.
The use of the excavator proved invaluable to the project, however. Digging out the area for the first step of the stairway took three workers with shovels about 45 minutes to complete. The excavator sped up that process considerably, saving a lot of sore backs in the process. The excavator became particularly valuable as the project proceeded up the hill, said William.
William and his friends started the project on a Wednesday afternoon in November. On that day, they gathered all the materials and dropped them off at the site.
The following Saturday, William and his volunteers started working on the project. “The first day, we completely finished the fence at the top of the hill,” William commented. “We had someone there who helped us out a lot because he was knowledgeable about fencing.”
On the same day, another part of the work crew started work on the base of the stairs at the foot of the hill. “We started on the stairs and got about a quarter of the way up,” William recalled. At that point, they realized that they had extra materials available, so they went back to the base and started to double the width of the steps.
Since the railroad ties had already been cut by chainsaw to the smaller size earlier in the day, William and his father decided to double the footprint of each step for the lower portion of the stairway. “That’s why there is a little line down the middle of the staircase on the first one or two steps,” William explained.
The initial width of each step was going to be about 2-1/2 feet, but the extra material allowed the steps to double in width to about 5 feet each. That turned out to be a blessing once everyone realized that more people would be able to climb the stairs with the wider width. It would become particularly helpful for parents walking up the stairs with their young children.
“Had we known initially that we had enough railroad ties to make the steps wider, we would have probably not cut so many railroad ties in advance,” said Phil in retrospect. “We went through about four chainsaw chains cutting them,” he recalled, shaking his head with a grin.
On the second Saturday of the project, William and his crew completed digging the path for the ascending stairway thanks to the use of the excavator. The volunteers then positioned and leveled the railroad ties in place as the steps began to slowly rise along the slope of the hill. They had to cease work that day when their first truckload of screening became depleted.
A few days later, a fresh supply of screening was delivered to the site by the Metroparks.
During the project, there were four days when William had a lot of help from his friends and family. There were many days in between, however, when it was just William and his father working on the project after William got home from school.
On December 4, William and about six of his friends were planning to complete the project. “We were filling each of the steps with screening and leveling them off,” recalled William, “but we ran out of screening and had to stop.”
They were just one-and-a-half steps from completing the project that day, William recalled.
William and his sister, Guinevere, and parents, Phil and Tammy, returned for the final day of the project on December 8. Together, as a family, they filled up the remaining steps, completing the project weeks before the first snowfall of winter.
When William tallied up the hours after the project was finished, he came up with a grand total of 255 hours and 45 minutes of volunteer time utilized to complete the project. This total included work from William, his family, his friends, fellow Scouts, troop leaders and adults.
Once finished, William contacted the Metroparks to see if the finished project met their standards.
“They were really pleased with it,” said Phil proudly.
“After all of the work for the Eagle rank is done, you have a district board of review,” explained Phil. “The official from the district was very impressed with it.” William’s parents and his sister are also very proud of him.
On a side note, Phil had also performed his Eagle project at Side Cut back in 1995, when he was a young man. It involved restoring the picnic area near one of the locks, clearing out the brush and making the area more usable for park visitors.
Now that all the hard work is done on the Side Cut sledding hill stairway and fence project, William can relax a bit as he enjoys completing his senior year at Maumee High School.
When asked how he feels about the project now that it is finished, William said, “I like how it turned out. I like how the fence looks along the back. I think the steps are really nice.”
When asked if he feels gratified knowing that kids will have a much easier time getting up the hill, William said, “I think it’s good. I remember going there before and seeing people walking up the hill and slipping, and I also remember slipping myself.”
William is a modest young man and is not the type of person who seeks any personal recognition for his good deed. “I did hear from the Metroparks, saying they have gotten a lot of positive feedback from it,” noted William.
“So, that’s good,” he said quietly.