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Albert Gallatin senior blazes trail at Friendship Hill National Historic Site

| Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
RJ Reinhard stands next to his finished Eagle Scout project in his Boy Scout uniform.
RJ Reinhard , Chaz Phillips, Charles McClain and Joe Borsodi (from left) put up fence rails as part of Reinhard's Eagle Scout project.

When Albert Gallatin senior RJ Reinhard began contemplating his Eagle Scout project this past spring, he quickly narrowed his choices and settled on a project at the Friendship Hill National Historic Site and restored estate of Albert Gallatin, secretary of the Treasury from 1801-1814 under presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Already a familiar face at the Farmington site, Reinhard has been a member of a fife, drum and bugle corps that has performed at the site's annual FestiFall and added, “I like to walk around Friendship Hill and explore the surroundings and peaceful environment.”

While Eagle Scout projects are virtually limitless, Reinhard had something else in mind when he approached park ranger Kitty Seifert, coordinator of the volunteer program at Friendship Hill who serves as front-line interpreter at school programs, in addition to interpreting the story of Friendship Hill to the public.

“RJ had volunteered at FestiFall and he had experience working and volunteering here in other capacities,” Seifert said, “and he came to us re the project. When he expressed an interest in doing his project at Friendship Hill, I put him in touch with Mike Gervas, chief of maintenance at Friendship Hill and Fort Necessity National Park.

“There is a trail where work needed to be done,” Reinhard said. “It was overgrown with weeds, some roots had to be removed, and general maintenance was necessary, but I wanted to do something that would last. As important as it is to keep the trail clear, in weeks or months that work would have to be done again, and I wanted to be a part of something more permanent.”

Gervas had already expressed a desire to clean up the grounds and extend a fence near a 20-by-20-foot gazebo that sits on a knoll behind the historic Albert Gallatin mansion, Seifert noted.

“Mike met with RJ and developed the specific project of repairing and extending the fence to the right of the gazebo, overlooking the Monongahela River,” Seifert explained. “There had been two sections of fencing erected for safety reasons and we naturally didn't want anyone moving too close and toppling over the cliff. For safety reasons, Mike suggested that RJ extend the fence, but some repairs and repainting would add an aesthetic appeal as well. Together, they worked out the arrangements for the project.”

Reinhard, who resides in Smithfield, is a member of Boy Scout Troop 609 in Fairchance and has been involved in Scouting since he was a first-grader when he became a Tiger Cub, he recalled.

After discussing the project with both Seifert and Gervas, on June 30 Reinhard met with Chuck Coldren, Eagle Advancement Chairman for the Old Trail District, to propose the project, and received the go-ahead.

Work on the cliff-side barrier fence, needed to prevent people from venturing too close to the hill, began at the end of July and was completed some two weeks later on Aug. 16.

Reinhard created a master plan to follow and oversaw the entire project.

“It was not a really difficult project, but it took time and organization and patience,” he explained. “There were some roots to chop out near the gazebo and we followed the line of the original existing split-rail fence. We dug post holes 10 feet apart for the 90-foot addition, and the fence blends in with the scenery.”

When asked who was responsible for measuring the distance between the post holes, Reinhard responded, with a chuckle. “Whoever was in that area did the measuring,” he laughed, “but it all worked out,” adding that wood and other materials were supplied by National Park Service.

“This is RJ's fence,” Seifert added. “He wanted something that would leave a lasting mark, and ‘I helped make this park a better place' would be his legacy. We are proud of the job RJ did. He is passionate about anything he does and that passion was evident during the work on this project.”

But Reinhard was quick to thank and give credit to those who assisted on his project, including friends William Moats, Chaz Phillips, Taylor Miller, Joe Borsodi, Nick Rennie and Lucas De Carlo; his father, Bob Reinhard; Leanne McClain, cousin; and Charles McClain, grandfather; and park maintenance workers Jim Kollar and Paul Ruane. Reinhard's grandmothers, he noted, smiling, Carol McClain and Carol Reinhard, provided refreshments for the workers.

With the project behind him and the fencing protecting visitors to the site, all that remains for him to receive his Eagle Scout award is the paperwork, followed by an interview with the Eagle Board of Review.

That passion that Seifert saw as Reinhard completed his project is also evident in his scholastic activities where he is a member of the Colonials' marching band, serving as percussion captain for the drum line this year, after serving as co-captain last year.

As Reinhard, an honors student, works his way through his senior year, he is ready to again volunteer at FestiFall and has designs, first on college, but he also is considering becoming a park ranger for the National Park Service.

“I've always liked history and as I've talked with park rangers at Friendship Hill I found I could be involved with Park Service and become a ranger,” he said, contemplating his future.

Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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