eagle scout project

Boy Scouts of America Troop 207 Life Scout and Brunswick High School student Cole Donaldson stands near the foundations of an old footbridge on Morningstar Child and Family Services’ campus off Ga. Highway 99. A project to rebuild the bridge and restore part of an old nature trail will satisfy one of the final requirements to earning his Eagle Scout award.

Boy Scouts of America Troop 207 is taking aim at improving another historical site on Morningstar Child and Family Services’ property on Ga. Highway 99.

Sitting in the shadow of a centuries-old sugar cane mill, a new footbridge will be but one stop in a planned revitalization of a historic nature trail. The trail was once a feature of the former Santo Domingo State Park — now owned by Morningstar.

Cole Donaldson, a member of Troop 207, is planning and leading the project to complete one of the requirements to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest award the program offers.

Cole, his mother, father and brother and other members of the troop waited for the second load of lumber Friday morning at the Morningstar estate while they continued to evaluate what will become the construction site.

Cole’s mother, Ramsey Donaldson, said they reckon the project will cost $3,000 or more in total.

“The majority is going to be donated but some is going to have to be bought,” Cole said, examining what was left of the old bridge. “We received substantial lumber and hardware.”

The new bridge will replace an older one, which was washed around 15 feet downstream during one of the major storms to hit the Golden Isles since 2016.

The one that washed away wasn’t the original, however. Cole said he wasn’t sure exactly what the original looked like. All that remains of the original bridge — which he said was likely built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as many as 80 years ago — are two concrete supports on opposite sides of the stream.

Designs for the new bridge were based mostly on those the Georgia Forestry Commission uses for footbridges and boardwalks, Cole said.

Home Depot and Coastal Hardware easily covered the majority of the expenses in donations of more than 60 lumber 2x8 boards of varying length and other hardware, including delivery to Morningstar.

So far, parts of the old bridge have been demolished and the debris hauled out, Cole said. One of the stream’s banks at the foot of the bridge was shored up with dirt in preparation for an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant ramp, as well.

Once the construction work begins in earnest, Cole said he’s going to need purchase concrete, rent equipment and generators and buy gas to power them, along with buying food for the other volunteers.

“It’s probably going to come out of the money I’ve saved up,” Cole said.

If everything goes to plan, Tim Donaldson, Cole’s father, said they hope to finish out the project by March.

“Weather permitting,” Ramsey added.

Planning and leading a community service project to improve or otherwise benefit a religious or educational organization or the community at-large is one of the final requirements to earn Eagle rank.

“The reason I wanted this project is I didn’t want to build something that wouldn’t last. I wanted to build something that would last beyond my time in the community,” Cole said.

He got the idea from DeLeon Peacock, a former resident of Morningstar’s predecessor Boys’ Estate Georgia. Morningstar took over the property in 1996, according to its website.

In a previous interview with The News, Peacock said he wanted to give something back to the shelter he’d had when he was a kid and to give the public a chance to enjoy nature and sites of significance to local history.

Other members of Troop 207, which is chartered with St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Brunswick, have done their projects along the trail and more are planning to do so, Cole said.

Upon the project’s completion, he’d be the second Donaldson to become an Eagle Scout in the last few years, as his brother Andrew earned the award in 2016.

When asked about how he felt starting the last leg of the race, Cole gave a long, dramatic sigh. He’s been a member of the program since the first grade, starting at the earliest rank in Cub Scouts, Tiger Cub, and working his way up to the rank of Life Scout in Troop 207.

“It will feel good not to have this over my head. Not to have parents nagging me. Don’t put that in there,” Cole said.

Trying to find the time to work on the project between class at Brunswick High School, extracurriculars and regular Boy Scout activities has been challenging, but Cole said he feels like he’s up to it.

Ramsey said they would appreciate any donations, monetary or otherwise.

She set up a GoFundMe campaign, which can be found at gofundme.com/cole039s-historical-bridge-rebuild-eagle-project, and anyone who may want to donate supplies, food or labor can contact her at ramsey142@comcast.net.

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