Aiming for Eagle

Published 11:01 am Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Joe Stephenson and his friends found themselves between a rock and a nice place Saturday morning.

When they left Sutton Park, it was a nicer place.

Stephenson restored a historic landmark more than eight decades old in Sutton Park along Dobbins Creek and across from the 11th Street Northeast intersection along East Oakland Place.

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Even his scoutmaster wondered aloud if anyone knew it existed.

Stephenson, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Willy Stephenson, is a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop No. 113 sponsored by Knights of Columbus Council No. 120.

He hopes to earn the elite rank of Eagle Scout and to do that he chose a community service project that touched scouting and Austin history.

“I was looking for an Eagle project,” explained Stephenson, “and my grandpa, Dick Pacholl, he told me about the rock, and I came down here to see it and thought it would be a good Eagle project.”

Stephenson obtained the permission of the Austin Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department to restore the large boulder.

Jerry Kelly, one of the famed Kelly brothers of railroad fame, knew some of the rock’s history.

“He said there were different women’s groups in Austin back in the 1920s, who were challenged to get the most people to their events would have the rock on their side of the town,” Stephenson said.

The rock — a six-foot wide boulder protruding four feet from the ground — was granted a permanent home in Sutton Park along the sidewalk on Austin’s east side.

On one side of the boulder is the Boy Scouts of America emblem. On another side is

“Sutton Park used to be the place where all the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts in town used to come and camp,” he said.

Stephenson and his crew of scouting friends and parents went to work Saturday morning clearing away the turf from the boulder and then putting a landscape border around before planting shrubs around the boulder.

Brent Hanson, Troop No. 113’s scoutmaster, was one of the adult volunteers.

Stephenson is the first Eagle Scout that new scoutmaster, Hanson, has assisted.

“I think it’s a great idea to draw attention to the rock that so many people don’t know exists.” Hanson said. “There’s history to learn and they’re talking about doing more research to find out more of the history from people in town.”

Willy Stephenson, Joe’s father, also helped.

“It makes me feel good to see what Joe and his friends are doing to the boulder,” he said. “We appreciate everybody’s help and support.”

Keven Maxa, former troop scoutmaster, was on the ground scraping the lichen that had accumulated on the Boy Scouts of America emblem for decades.

The Eagle Scout-to-be called Keven Maxa “my mentor.”

Troop No. 113 has only had 4 Eagle Scouts in the last 10 years of its existence.

“We’re pretty strict with our scouts and what they do in the troop,” the adult Maxa said. “They have to do all the requirements.”

Matt Maxa, son of Keven and Julie Maxa and an Eagle Scout himself, undertook a massive Fairview Cemetery flag project near Oakland in 2004.

Today, he’s an adult leader for Troop No. 113.

“I’ve helped with other Eagle projects in the past, but this is the first I’ve dealt with since becoming an adult leader,” he said. “There’s certainly a sense of accomplishment in seeing what Joe is doing.”

The project attracted lots of support from the community, according to Stephenson.

Berg’s Nursery and Landscaping donated all of the border and landscaping tarp.

Sterling Main Street, where Stephenson works, donated shrubs and so did the Willy Stephenson family from their own garden.

Jeff Anderson of Anderson Memorial donated his expertise by instructing Stephenson and his partners how to restore the bronze emblem mounted on the boulder.

Anderson knew well how important the project was for Stephenson, his scouting friends and the adult volunteers. He is assistant scoutmaster of Troop No. 122 in Austin.

The boulder is located on an elevated area of the Sutton Park lawn after being moved from a location near Dobbins Creek and an old swinging walkway bridge that is no more.

The city of Austin has enhanced the East Oakland Place and 11th Street Northeast area where a retention pond is located. Many spruce and deciduous trees have been planted to turn what an Austin Council Member called an “eyesore” into an attractive gateway to the city of Austin.

Now, a boulder that went ignored for so many years at last gets some respect.

All of Austin’s east side can be proud.

In addition to the Boy Scouts of America emblem, someone chiseled on another side the words “East Side 1926.”