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Loyalhanna Eagle Scout's project now under water

| Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012, 9:01 p.m.
Eagle scout James Vought (left) and his friend Caelan McChesney, 13, work on the edge of the asphalt where gravel will be laid for the boat launch that Vought is building as an eagle scout project on October 28, 2012 near New Alexandria. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Eagle scout James Vought (left) stands where the boat launch that he is building as an eagle scout project will allow canoe and kayak users to put in to the Loyalhanna Creek on October 28, 2012 near New Alexandria. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review
Eagle scout James Vought (right) talks with Robert Schlemmer, Jr. about the direction of the path of the boat launch that he is building as an eagle scout project on October 28, 2012 near New Alexandria. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

James Vought's Eagle Scout project in New Alexandria is underwater — literally.

Vought, a 17-year-old Loyalhanna Township resident, can't finish the boat ramp he was building for his Eagle Scout community service project until the Loyalhanna Creek recedes. Due to the heavy rains from superstorm Sandy two weeks ago, the creek has flooded the site of the boat ramp at the west end of Main Street, just south of the Route 22 bridge over the Loyalhanna Creek.

“I hope to get it finished by the end of the year,” said Vought, a senior at Saltsburg High School. But that time frame depends on the weather.

Vought, a member of Boy Scout Troop 345 of New Alexandria, has until he turns 18 in June to finish the boat ramp in order for it to qualify as his Eagle Scout project.

Vought may be able to resume work on the ramp this weekend because the creek should be low enough by the end of the week, said a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Loyalhanna Dam, which controls the level of the creek that flows into Loyalhanna Lake.

The ramp site is six miles from the lake's Bush Run recreation area and nine miles from the Loyalhanna Dam. It is across the creek from an old boat-access site off Galando Road in Salem Township, a site that the Army Corps of Engineers wants to close once the new ramp is finished, Vought said.

Vought said he selected the boat ramp project for his Eagle Scout requirement because he enjoys kayaking.

“I wanted to make it (Loyalhanna Creek) accessible to others,” said Vought, who has kayaked on the Conemaugh and Kiskiminetas rivers in the Saltsburg area.

The boat ramp is designed for kayakers and canoeists. A gravel parking lot will be built by a community ballfield, but only a stone walkway will be built to the shoreline, a distance of about 130 feet, Vought said. Vehicles towing motorboats will not be able to drive to the edge of the water, Vought said.

Before building the boat ramp, Vought obtained permission from the Army Corps of Engineers and New Alexandria borough officials.

Vought has received assistance on the project, which is about one-third complete, from a variety of sources. The Corps of Engineers donated geowebbing, which holds stone in place on the ramp. Hoover's Stone Quarry in Loyalhanna Township donated 205 tons of gravel and the trucks to haul it to the site, Vought said.

His parents, Brian and Beverly Vought, have helped with the project as have fellow Boy Scouts and his scoutmaster, Robert Schlemmer Jr. and his family. His brother, Brian, now 21, has assisted, just like James did for Brian's Eagle Scout project — an 8-foot-by-16-foot Adirondack shelter for physically challenged hunters on Bow Ridge overlooking the Conemaugh River Lake near Tunnelton.

Joy Mining Co. in Homer City, a mine equipment manufacturing company where Beverly Vought works, donated safety gloves and glasses.

Vought estimated the total cost of the project at $8,000, including the donated products and services.

Vought's project to build a boat ramp to Loyalhanna Creek is part of a greater effort to improve access and recreational opportunities along Loyalhanna Creek, stretching from its confluence with the Conemaugh River at Saltsburg, 36 miles upstream to Ligonier.

“We are working on a water trail along the Loyalhanna Creek, to increase access to the creek. It will help people take advantage of the recreational opportunities along the creek,” said Susan Huba, executive director of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, a Ligonier-based conservation organization that promotes and preserves the watershed.

The watershed association has joined forces with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council in developing a Loyalhanna Creek Water Trail map and guide that shows 15 access points, such as the boat ramp Vought is building, and sites along the creek between Ligonier and Saltsburg. The watershed association wants to publish about 3,000 copies of the trail map and guide in the spring.

The association also is planning to create another public access point to the creek off Idlewild Hill Road near Idlewild Park in Ligonier Township, Huba said. A property owner has given the association the right of way to the creek and the organization is hoping that a contractor installing a sewage line in that area would be able to do some work on the ramp site.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or

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