GOLDENS BRIDGE, N.Y. Sixteen-year-old A.J. Goncalves had his sights set on becoming an Eagle Scout. He just needed to figure out what project to undertake in order to reach that rank.
You can do any kind of project you like as long as it benefits the community, he said. I knew I wanted to do something with biking and bike trails.
Goncalves said area kids -and adults - love to ride their bikes, but the local roads, especially the highways, present dangerous challenges.
I wanted to create an alternate bike route instead of Route 138, which has narrow shoulders, so kids can ride their bikes to school, he said.
The idea for a bike path came to him after attending meetings of the group On Golden Path, an organization dedicated to creating more bike-friendly corridors in the Goldens Bridge area. The project he eventually settled on was constructing a bike and foot path that connects the parking lots of Increase Miller Elementary School and Fox Valley Park. Goncalves, who will be a junior at John Jay High School this year, said the path will not only provide cyclists a safe place to ride, but will help with overflow parking when there is an event at either location. For example, when there are soccer and baseball games at the park, people can park at the school and walk the path to get there.
The path passes through some wetland areas. The school used to have a path that led into the area for an outdoor classroom, but it hasnt been maintained in years and since grown over. So, to figure out the best way to connect the school and the park, Goncalves worked closely with Ryan Coyne, the towns engineer, and Jan Johannessen, the town planner.
The first thing I did was talk to [Recreation Director] Dana Mayclim, Goncalves said. She told me what boards Id have to go through before it could happen.
Goncalves, who started the project a year ago, had to navigate through a significant amount of red tape and obtain the necessary permits before his plan was approved. He had to give presentations before the town board, planning board, parks and rec commission, the school board and he had to obtain a wetlands permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation. He also had to go before the Boy Scout Advancement Committee to have the idea approved in order to become an Eagle Scout.
Its a well laid-out plan and he gave a very professional presentation, said Lewisboro Town Supervisor Charles Duffy. He worked very well with every department. He was a diligent worker and we cant wait to see the results.
Duffy wont have to wait long. The project begins construction Saturday when a landscaper with a backhoe will clear out brush and trees and re-grade parts of the trail. Goncalves and some friends will also help with some of the brush clearing. The scout said he hopes to have the project completed by mid- to late August, before school opens.
The pathway will include a main bridge that travels over a stream, as well as several smaller bog bridges. The entire project was not a cheap undertaking, so Gonclaves had to design a fundraiser to get the financial backing he needed.
I had a Dumpster day, he said. Bria Carting donated the use of five large construction Dumpsters and let people bring their large garbage things like old appliances, couches and beds.
Goncalves raised more than $5,000, which was about what the project costs. He also obtained some discounted materials from the Home Depot in Danbury, Conn., and is current speaking to the Home Depot in Brewster about doing the same thing.
Goncalves, who is the son of Darlene and Tony Goncalves, said he thinks one the best things about the pathway is that it is Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.
Thats why we have to grade the land, so that its flat enough for the wheelchairs to make it through, he said.
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