Among the outdoor play equipment at Torrey Pines Church Daycare Center, which includes an enclosed playground with climbing structures and tactile activities, the church has “wiggle racer” scooters, small bicycles and tricycles. But without a smooth place to ride them, the vehicles have sat in a bin for years, unused.
Enter 15-year-old Troop 271 Boy Scout Nicolas Cridlig, who for his Eagle Scout Project, built a “racetrack” for the children at the center. Concluding more than a year of planning, Nicolas put the final coat of paint on the track this week.
“The Torrey Pines Church is our troop’s sponsoring church and they have been so supportive of us. They let us use their facilities when we need to have meetings and rent surfboards to us when we want them. I wanted to do something for them,” he said.
So Nicolas met with church representatives to see how he could help. “They said they have been wanting to use these (scooters) for years, but they needed a track. If I really wanted to help, they said, I could build them the track.”
Because an Eagle Scout project, “is a large community service project to give back to the community that has nurtured you,” Nicolas said he wanted to “do something for kids.” As the highest rank given to a Boy Scout, he equated becoming an Eagle Scout to earning a high school diploma.
Starting in February of last year, Nicolas and his troopmates spent several months studying the area and evaluated what needed to be done. The first thing was to move a 9,000-pound shed – not to mention finding a free weekend when there wasn’t something on the church calendar – that was in the spot where they wanted to construct the track.
In the meantime, Nicolas reached out to companies that might be willing to donate time or services to the project. Those that responded, for which Nicolas said he is grateful, include Salah Construction, Rey Robles Concrete, Hanson Aggregates, Bob’s Cranes, Home Depot, and Smart & Final.
“After we moved the shed, we detailed the design of the track itself,” he explained. “I ran my design past some people in my troop to see if it was feasible or what I could improve. I presented the (revised) plans to my scoutmaster and the church, and they said some of my ideas were too extravagant. In some areas, it was clear I didn’t have much idea of what I was doing.”
After further refinements, he got the first stamp of approval, and began raising funds and contacting people to carry out the work. The track shape resembles a figure-eight and is supposed to replicate a NASCAR track, which goes counter-clockwise so riders are always making a left turn. It varies between 5 and 7 feet wide, so tiny riders can have a real race on it, or fit two or three riders on at once. The track itself was estimated to cost $5,000, the pricetag jumps to $7,000 with building costs added in – all of which was donated or paid by funds raised.
Last month, the execution began. “On June 18, we jackhammered the dirt and placed ‘rails’ so to speak, to give it form, guided by wooden stakes in the ground, and laid on the wire mesh to prevent cracking as time passes. At the last minute, I added a drain so the center doesn’t become a pond when it rains, which connects to the playground drain,” Nicolas said.
“On June 22, we poured the concrete. The truck arrived at 7 a.m. and was out by 8 a.m. Workers had what looked like a garden hose, four feet in diameter, which just spewed concrete. So it went really fast. They gave it a ‘brushed finished’ to give it more traction. It was just one of those small details I thought would make the track more enjoyable.”
On June 28, the track was painted with dash lines, arrows and a starting line.
Nicolas said the lessons learned in the effort included time management, how to find volunteers and handle last-minute issues. “As we were digging,” he said for example, “we found an electrical box that, if not kept clear, SDG&E would need to breakup the track to access. So we had to plan around that.” He added that he also learned to keep directions short and simple.
“Being an Eagle Scout is really about being a leader … someone who can manage things effectively ... in an emergency, there are all these first responders hidden in the community ... this project taught me that I’m not supposed to do the work specifically, I’m supposed to demonstrate leadership. That means knowing when to delegate jobs, manage time, make sure everyone knows what needs to be done and encourage them, so they enjoy working on the project.”
He said he plans to give “thank you” plaques to those who helped. “People really came together for this,” Nicolas said. “As our population grows ever larger, and we have less and less resources, it’s by coming together that we can keep the world a good place.”