Brunswick project tests Topsham scout's paperwork, bridge-building skills

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BRUNSWICK — Some teenagers are buried in their electronic devices or concerned with the next social media challenge.

Not 15-year-old Sam Hughes.

Hughes, a sophomore at Mt. Ararat High School, revels in his time outdoors and appreciates nature. He said his love for the outdoors is the reason he decided to join the Boy Scouts when he was 6 years old.

Hughes, who lives in Topsham, has been in the Boy Scouts for nine years and has already achieved the Eagle Scout rank, the organization’s highest achievement. He completed his service project last fall: a bridge he built at the end of Jack’s Trail on Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s Chase Reserve on Bunganuc Road in Brunswick. The trail connects BTLT’s trail with Freeport Conservation Trust’s Antoinette Jackman Trail.

“There was a lot of paperwork and organization involved,” Hughes said. “It was more than building the actual bridge.”‘ 

The process was no small feat for Hughes, a member of Troop 646 in Topsham. He worked with local contractor Leon Vaillancourt to find donated materials, which Hammond Lumber contributed. Hughes also had to get permits from the towns of Brunswick and Freeport, and permission from landowners to build the bridge.

“I’m 15,” Hughes joked. “What did I know about permits?” 

If that wasn’t hard enough, Hughes transported the materials a mile down the trail to a beaver dam, where the bridge was constructed. He even built the bridge on the same morning he had a golf tournament, since he is a member of Mt. Ararat’s varsity golf team.

Admittedly, Hughes doesn’t remember what he shot that day in the tournament, but he knows he was tired.

“I was wiped out by the end of that day,” he said.

Hughes’ scoutmaster, Dave Remis, said “most boys his age couldn’t have done what he did.”

“I’ve seen Sam mature so much, he used to be shy and indecisive, but he’s learned to be confident and he’s gathered these skills over the years,” Remis said. “Those skills have helped him become a leader and that leadership helped him with his service project. Other boys look up to him. And it’s almost unheard of for boys his age to get this prestigious honor. He’s made me and others so proud.”

Hughes knows most boys his age don’t earn the Eagle Scout award. 

According to the Boy Scouts of America, only 4 percent of all scouts meet the requirements necessary to become an Eagle Scout. Of the 136 merit badges available, 21 must be earned to qualify for Eagle Scout, and some are mandatory. Hughes has earned 29.

“I knew that this would be something I would not only enjoy but would get so much out of, which I have,” Hughes said. “It’s not like Boy Scouts is all hiking and swimming. You do fun things like that, but you also learn valuable lessons you can take with you throughout your entire life while you’re having fun.”

“Some people my age might not think being in Scouts is cool, but it’s so much more than people think,” he continued. “It’s not about how many merit badges one has either; it’s about you getting the most out of the program that you want to. It isn’t about racing to achieve Eagle Scout. It’s about being mindful and purposeful in what you do.”

Hughes said he wants to continue contributing to the community in the future and wants to stay involved in Scouts through college. 

Despite his age, Hughes is also quite decisive about what he wants to do for a career.

“I don’t know where I want to go to college yet, but I would love to work for the Maine Warden Service,” he said. “That is my dream career and I can definitely see myself doing something like that.”

Patti McDonald can be reached at 780-9123 or pmcdonald@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @pmcdonaldme.

Sam Hughes of Topsham built this bridge last fall at the end of Jack’s Trail on Bunganuc Road in Brunswick as his Eagle Scout project. The trail connects BTLT’s trail with Freeport Conservation Trust’s Antoinette Jackman Trail.

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