La Jolla teen builds park footbridge for Eagle Scout project

The project involved months of planning, approvals and fundraising

Boy Scouting’s most difficult rank advancement requirement is the Eagle Scout Service Project. For his, La Jolla High School junior Max Gibbs, 16, of Troop 4 La Jolla chose to construct a footbridge in San Diego’s Presidio Park.

His task was to build a 15-foot-long redwood bridge to connect a network of trails in the park. Gibbs led a team of volunteers in constructing the bridge, and although it was completed in just one day, the project involved months of planning, approvals and fundraising.

Gibbs said he started thinking about the project last winter. “I wanted to build something tangible and I wanted the project to be interesting and fun,” he said. Troop 4 leaders encourage Scouts to tackle projects throughout the greater San Diego region, not just projects in La Jolla.

Initially Gibbs said he had second thoughts about his selection and wondered if he might have over-committed himself. “My dad encouraged me, and my Troop stepped up to help. It was a challenging project, and it’s great to see it finally finished,” Gibbs said.

He began the bridge by taking measurements, making a list of tools and materials, sketching a plan, visiting a lumberyard, and creating a budget on an Excel spreadsheet. He put together a PowerPoint presentation for a parents meeting. He secured signatures from the park ranger and scoutmaster before soliciting donations. He canvassed his neighborhood, knocking on the doors of families he knew. “People were happy to contribute. Fundraising was not as hard as I thought,” he said.

“On the day of construction, I knew one of the challenges would be managing all the volunteers. So I picked two senior Scouts as leaders. They each had a team of four younger Scouts to oversee. I only had to manage two people. If I had to manage everyone, it would have been chaos. In Scouting we call it the ‘Patrol Method.’ It works.”

Former Troop 4 Scoutmaster Rich Donnelly said, “The Eagle Scout Service Project is about teaching young men how to plan, develop and lead others. In doing so, Scouts can accomplish tasks far greater than any one Scout could do alone.”

Established in 1912, Troop 4 La Jolla is the oldest troop west of the Mississippi. Any boy who is 11 years old or has completed fifth-grade or earned the Arrow of Light Award (and is at least 10 but not yet 18) is welcome to join. Troop 4 meets 6:45 p.m. the second, third and fourth Mondays at La Jolla Presbyterian Church. Troop 4 welcomes those interested in learning about the outdoors, helping others, becoming a leader, making friends and having fun through camping and hiking trips, as well as merit badge and service opportunities.