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Local Eagle Scout candidate hitting the trail for service project

Matthew Ewing of Lebanon has embarked on a unique service project to earn his Eagle Scout rank.

The 17-year old is using GPS to map a near 70-mile stretch of the Santiam Wagon Trail. The route runs from the gazebo in the Lebanon Walmart parking lot to the Sisters-Bend area, ending near Big Lake.

“The benefit is people can go out on their own,” said Stephanie Gatchell, support services supervisor with Sweet Home Ranger Station, whose territory encompasses most of the trail.

“We offer guided tours that go out on the Santiam Wagon Trail, but we aren’t always available, so this allows people to go on the Santiam Wagon Trail and see why it’s significant. At the same time, they can use the same trail that the Native Americans used.”

The requirements for an Eagle service project are that it must entail at least 100 hours, benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting, better or improve something in some way, and demonstrate leadership.

Ewing said he’s gotten help with the paperwork from his troop leader, Scott Bruslind. Ewing has had to solve logistical and personnel issues on his own. He had to work around all of the summer scheduling conflicts common to teenagers.

“The best way to describe it is a senior thesis,” said Bruslind, Scoutmaster for Troop 7088.

“With Matthew, this is a good example; he thought, ‘Why doesn’t this exist so I can go out there and jump on a mountain bike and go from Sisters to Sweet Home?’ He is going to make that happen.”

Ewing has mapped 30 miles so far of his stated goal of 65 to 70 miles, depending on where he finishes. He hopes to finish in two months.

“All of the information where I’m mapping out the section of the trail, all that data I collect of where the trail is, I’m sending to the U.S. Forest Service,” he said.

Oregon State University and the Forest Service have partnered to develop an app that people can download for free, and it will give the history of the trail, where it is, so hikers and bikers can use it as a GPS so they don’t get lost, Ewing added.

“That is the main goal of the project and why I helped with it. People were getting lost, and I wanted to help stop that and also teach people the historical significance of the trail.”