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Eagle Scout blazes trail into Douglaston woods

By Joe Anuta

By Joe Anuta

Quid pro quos are not always smiled upon, but everybody won Saturday when a 17-year-old came one step closer to becoming an Eagle Scout and the people of Douglaston received new walking paths in a portion of Udalls Cove Park Preserve.

An ongoing relationship between the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee and the Boy Scouts of America has helped several young men distinguish themselves by planning and carrying out improvements to the 41-acre green space, which stretches north from near 244th Street and Northern Boulevard all the way to the coast.

And according to Walter Mugdan, president of the committee, it is a great way to make up for shrinking grant money that previously funded upkeep in the wooded area.

“It’s good for us and it’s good for the young men,” he said. “We now have this relationship with two scout troops.”

One of those young men, Kevin Chen, belongs to Troop 183, which pulls members from both Little Neck and Great Neck. And Saturday he was perched atop a mound of wood chips near the corner of 244th and Church streets.

Chen was shoveling the chips into wheelbarrows to be trundled away and dumped upon a newly created path that snaked through the woods. The project will give nature lovers better access to stroll through a portion of the preserve, which is kept in its natural wild state by the city Parks Department rather than developed into something like sports fields or bicycle paths.

The wood-chip path also marks the end of a journey Chen began when he joined the Scouts at age 12.

He rose through the levels of the Boy Scouts and is now attempting to become an Eagle Scout, the organization’s highest rank, before he turns 18 and ages out of the program.

The title is not easily attained. In 2011, 51,473 Scouts, or just 5 percent of the nation’s total, became Eagle Scouts.

“It’s going a lot better than I thought,” the New Hyde Park resident said during a break in the action.

Chen needed one final project in order to make his case before the committee that would confer the rank of Eagle Scout upon him, so he approached Mugdan, as other Scouts have done before, to see if any improvements needed to be make in Udalls Cove.

The two agreed that a new walking path would be a welcome addition to the leafy oasis, so Chen set about planning how the project would move forward, and how he would command a team to achieve results.

Those results were apparent by noon Saturday as a light golden ribbon threaded through trees.

Chen will graduate from Great Neck South High School this year and wants to study physical therapy. He said his tenure as a Scout has imparted life lessons that will come in handy as he grows older.

“I feel like I would be less outgoing if I didn’t join,” he said. “They teach you about leadership.”

New York City has its fair share of notable Eagle Scouts, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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