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Hornicak siblings work beside each other to earn highest American Scouting honors

| Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, 10:00 p.m.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Boy Scout Nicholas Hornicak,15, clears stones and debris from a drainage pipe along the waterfall trail in Braddock's Trail Park while volunteering with his fellow Boy Scouts and friends on Sunday Dec. 11, 2016, in North Huntingdon. Nicholas is doing work on the trail to earn his Eagle Scout Rank.
Barry Reeger | For The Tribune-Review
Girl Scout Elizabeth Hornicak,16, spreads mulch along the Eagle 1 Trail in Braddock's Trail Park while volunteering with her fellow Girl Scouts and friends on Sunday Dec. 11, 2016, in North Huntingdon. Elizabeth is performing a beautification project for the trail to earn the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, The Gold Award.

Growing up 14 months apart, Nick and Liz Hornicak have learned to argue, negotiate, reconcile and appreciate each other's strengths.

Now, the North Huntingdon siblings — Nick is 15 and Liz is 16 — are working side by side in Braddock's Trail Park to earn the highest honors in American Scouting.

On a bitter cold Sunday morning, two weeks before Christmas, the Hornicaks gathered a crew of friends and family at the entrance of the township park to tackle projects designed to enhance the safety and accessibility of 147 acres of steep, densely wooded wilderness at the end of Robbins Station Road in North Huntingdon.

About 5 percent of Boy Scouts complete the rigorous requirements for the organization's highest rank. But few, if any, can say they did it working beside a sister who had launched her own project to earn a Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting.

Each of the siblings have distinct projects in different parts of the park. They committed to their projects in September and had hoped to complete their work in early November.

Their parents, Michael and Donna Hornicak, thought it was a reasonable timeline. But delays in permit processing pushed the actual work to December.

It also forced Nick, a sophomore at Norwin High School and member of Boy Scout Troop 251 in Ardara, to come up with a contingency plan to document work in subfreezing temperatures for a railing he was installing near an overlook deep in the woods.

“You can regulate it with hot water and hay,” he said confidently after a brief break for hot chocolate.

Several hundred yards away on another section of the park, along the route of Gen. Braddock's 1755 expedition to Fort Duquesne, Liz Hornicak and a small cadre of friends spread mulch along Eagle 1 Trail, a steep path known for colorful wildflower displays in warmer weather.

Although the Hornicaks live nearby, it wasn't until recently they became aware of the rare stretch of wilderness adjacent to their sprawling suburban neighborhood.

Nick worried about the dangers of a steep drop-off near a scenic point in the woods. Liz liked the idea of improving the accessibility of hiking trails.

They will return next weekend to finish their projects. In addition to the railing, Nick's project calls for the addition of a drainage diversion project to minimize water runoff and the construction of a display kiosk near the parking area.

Liz plans to mark the major trails and produce a brochure including a trail map, and locations of landmarks and wildflowers.

Donna Hornicak said Nick and Liz have had the ups and downs common to siblings who are so close in age.

“But they've always supported one another's common interest in scouting,” she said.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com.

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