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DLHS senior earns his Eagle Scout wings

Detroit Lakes High School senior Ben Tjedkes earned his Eagle Scout wings by completing a trail enhancement project on the trails along North Tower Road north of Detroit Lakes — with a little help from his friends. SUBMITTED PHOTO

It couldn’t have been easy, but after 11 years Detroit Lakes High School senior Ben Tjedkes is finally earning his wings — his Eagle Scout wings.

“I’ve been in (the scouts) since the first grade,” he said.

“I think it’s taught me leadership skills because I was named senior patrol leader, which is the head person of all the scouts.”

And now Tjedkes has completed the final, big project that will likely give him the top Boy Scout rank of Eagle Scout.

“I wanted to do something that focused on the outdoors, so I contacted the (U.S. Fish & Wildlife) Wetland office,” said the outdoors enthusiast who got an equally as enthusiastic response.

“The past couple of years we’ve been trying to do enhancements on the trails out of here on North Tower Road…,” said Stacy Salvevold, who is deputy project leader in the Detroit Lakes Wetland Management District. “…trails that connect our existing hiking trails with bike trails.”

As part of that trail enhancement process, folks at the wetlands office thought up a perfect project for the would-be Eagle Scout.

“They said I could construct some benches for their trail,” said Tjedkes, who got approval for his project proposal from the Boy Scout organization before he began pulling it all together.

“I had to collect all of the materials needed, like tools and cement, which the wetlands office provided to me, and I started recruiting people,” said Tjedkes, who would convince 10 other volunteers — both scouts and non-scouts — to help.

Tjedkes spend roughly 30 hours working on the details of the project, which came to fruition at the beginning of this month.

“The first day we cleared the ground and then dug the holes and constructed the aluminum benches and set the benches in the concrete to let them cure overnight,” said Tjedkes.

“The next day we went back in there and backfilled some gravel over the cement.”

Now the two benches are available to nature lovers walking the trails as a place to rest when bird watching or hiking.

“I felt like everything went well and I accomplished something that was good,” said Tjedkes.

“And they have a disabled accessible pad so there’s room for a wheelchair to pull up next to the bench, too,” said Salvevold, who says the wetlands office still has to do its part in making the area handicapped accessible in terms of accessibility out to the trails and benches.

“Hopefully we can get some funding for that in the next five years,” she added.

In the meantime, as Tjedkes is set to begin his senior year in Detroit Lakes, he will also be busy adding onto the larger scope of his project — enhancing the treasured wetlands that lay on the back step of Becker County.

He’s taken an internship at the wetlands office that will run during the school year.

“I’ll be helping out the biologists out there, doing different projects,” said Tjedkes, who plans on going to college for wildlife ecology.

Helping make a difference in the natural beauty out at the wetlands is likely only the beginning for this young man.

“Detroit Lakes in general has had a fantastic community,” said Salvevold, “and this is a perfect example of the superior, young leaders we’re raising in this community.”