Why do we ever build bridges? Sure, we build bridges to travel over water so we can take our fancy cars from place to place or so we don’t get our feet wet when we need to cross a creek. Although these functions are very helpful, I do not believe these are the most important uses for a bridge. Bridges can be so much more than some concrete or some wood we use so our hiking boots stay dry. Bridges connect places and more importantly, bridges can connect people. They can help establish entire communities from nothing or repair longstanding communities that are on the brink of falling apart. This is why we are building a bridge through our work here at the Forestry Outreach Center (FOC).
When I was growing up in West Virginia, I was very active in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). I started as young as you were allowed to start and stayed as long as they would let me. Through many camp outs, hikes, car rides to campouts, and community service projects, I noticed that I had made a special connection with my peers, and I couldn’t quite understand how or why that happened. As the years flew by and I grew older and more mature in my scouting experience, I began to realize that this “special connection” was the community I had built through scouting. It was so mesmerizing to me that something like this could happen so fast. Some more time went by and I ultimately earned the rank of Eagle Scout and left my little old troop to come to Berea College. Fortunately for me, I never left what I learned in those many years and the lesson that sticks with me the most is how important a community can be.
When I came to Berea College, I knew I had to find some way to purse my passion for community that I developed through scouting, and what better way to do that than through the same outlet I utilized while I was in scouting: trees. Very recently I was welcomed onto the team at the Forestry Outreach Center, and I was given the option to pick a project I would like to work on this year. I knew this was my opportunity to build a bridge, but I was not sure how to do it. As I was hiking to West Pinnacle on a very sunny day, an idea hit me like the heat had been doing for about a mile. I knew that I could utilize the Boy Scouts of America to help me build a bridge and repair a small Kentucky community that seems to have a deep divide between traditional conservative values and newfangled liberal arts education.
As this blog is being written, the Forestry Outreach Center is in the process of establishing connections with the leadership of the BSA of Kentucky to host a major event for local scouts in Berea, KY and the surrounding communities. Now what is the lesson in all of this? Why did you just read a blog with a misleading title from a college student who you don’t know? My best guess is that you’re interested in construction of bridges in this beautiful forest. If that is the case, rest easy knowing that the only bridges we are building at the moment is one to better this community for years to come. If that lesson isn’t good enough for you then here is another lesson: bridges are much easier to build than engineers think. All you need are some trees, a passion, and a little bit of help from those around you.