Local boy’s Eagle Scout project supports Tusculum University’s nature trail with boardwalk and birdhouses

GREENEVILLE – Tusculum University’s nature trail, which provides excellent recreation for students, faculty, staff and the community in a historic area, is benefiting from a new amenity developed by a local boy pursuing Eagle Scout designation.

Micah Gall crouches on the boardwalk.

On Saturday, Aug. 5, Micah Gall, a member of Boy Scout Troop 92 in Greeneville, installed a boardwalk in a section of the trail that tends to stay wetter than other areas and placed 10 birdhouses throughout the trail and wetlands. Members of his family and his troop joined him, and the group completed the installation in just a few hours.

The Eagle Scout project was a follow-up to earlier work Gall completed for service hours in which he helped clear the trail. He said Dr. Peter Noll, professor of public history and museum studies at Tusculum, asked him whether he wanted to perform an Eagle Scout project. The boardwalk and birdhouses appealed to him so he moved forward.

“Largely, there is a convenience aspect to the boardwalk,” said Gall, 17. “For many parts of the year, this one section of the trail can be muddy and unpleasant to walk through. I know this from personal experience. I have gotten my socks soaked twice walking in this area. Another reason is to preserve the vernal pond nearby.”

The boardwalk will also strengthen the environment in that part of the trail by protecting a sensitive transitional wetland and the species that could otherwise be negatively impacted.

Dr. Noll said the boardwalk will make this part of the trail accessible throughout the year. In addition, the project will benefit the university’s delivery of active and experiential learning. Dr. Noll said the university’s environmental science classes sometimes conduct outdoor labs in this part of the trail. The faculty member and students will not have to worry about that part of the trail being overly wet.

“As we foster our community connections and support our students, access to this section of the trail in a comfortable way is important,” he said. “We are grateful to Micah for undertaking this project and know it will have a positive impact on the community’s use of our trail and students’ use for their coursework.”

Micah Gall, top left, drills one of the boards.

The process for bringing this project to fruition was multi-faceted. Gall said he conducted planning and received approval from his scoutmaster, another person in his troop and Dr. Noll before presenting it to the Boy Scouts of America for its blessing, Then, he sought assistance from businesses in Greeneville.

Those who supported his initiative were East Tennessee Forest Products, which donated all of the boards; Greeneville Hose & Supply, which provided the hose cleaners for the bird houses; and Home Improvement Warehouse, which gave Gall screws and other needed materials. Gall also received help from a donor who wished to remain anonymous. Troop members and his family provided the tools and labor needed for construction.

The generosity was more than Gall anticipated, enabling him to place 15 sections of the boardwalk, each 8 feet long.

He added the birdhouses because he wanted his Eagle Scout project to encompass more than the boardwalk. The birdhouses look nice and help local species, he said. The group constructed the birdhouses in such a way they can be easily brought to the ground for maintenance. Gall consulted with Jordan Baker, assistant professor of biology at Tusculum, on the birdhouse construction and placement.

Wesley Miller, scoutmaster for Troop 92, sees many beneficial elements to Gall’s project. The boardwalk fits with the conservation and outdoors components of the Boy Scouts and community experience and helps the trail stay in good condition, he said. He likes that the birdhouses contribute to the support of wildlife and the protection of habitat. He also believes all of the facets associated with the planning and approval of this Eagle Scout project will help Gall.

Here is the map for Tusculum’s nature trail.

“It is such a good thing for young people to learn project management,” Miller said. “It’s a great thing for them to have that experience because it carries over to so many other aspects of life. It is good for them to learn how to interact with people on a project, present in front of others, answer questions and get feedback that they may or may not like and rework their plan a little bit.”

Gall is grateful to everyone who helped him construct the boardwalk and the birdhouses with the donated materials. He thanked his father, Dr. Robert Gall, chair of Tusculum’s Psychology Department, for proofreading some of his proposal and advising him during the process.

The nature trail, created about two years ago, is open year-round for anyone to use. It runs from the Paul E. Hayden Educational Wetland to the springhouse near the Doak House Museum and features a couple of forks that can take hikers in other directions. A portion of the trail runs along College Creek. A round trip from the wetland to the Doak House is about a mile.

Tusculum also has a gravel pathway from the springhouse to Gilland Street.

Anyone who is interested in assisting with the trail can email Dr. Noll at pnoll@tusculum.edu. Further information about the university is available at www.tusculum.edu.