Scout launches his legacy

Joe Napsha
| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

A Loyalhanna Township Eagle Scout relied on a village of volunteers to help him build a canoe-kayak launch in New Alexandria, which will benefit a community of boaters, officials said Friday at the newly opened launch site into Loyalhanna Creek.

James Vought, 18, was honored Friday with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commander's Award for Public Service for making a significant enhancement to Loyalhanna Lake by constructing the canoe-kayak launch for his Eagle Scout service project.

“You really did an outstanding job. You are ready to be a civil engineer,” Cathy Griffin, deputy chief operations officer for the Corps of Engineers' Pittsburgh District, told Vought as she presented him with the award at the opening ceremonies for the boat launch.

Vought, a recent Saltsburg High School graduate, said he plans to study civil engineering at Penn State University.

“I was looking for a big (Eagle Scout) project, but I did not think it would be this big,” Vought said as he looked around the work he had accomplished.

It took about $15,000 worth of equipment and supplies to bring the project to fruition, Griffin said.

Vought, who enjoys canoeing on the Loyalhanna, had obtained permission from New Alexandria Borough Council and the Army Corps to do the project. The launch site, complete with a parking area and a turnaround, is accessible off West Main Street and is about 100 yards from the intersection of the Route 22 eastbound lanes. It is built off Old William Penn Highway, which is Main Street in New Alexandria.

“It is a legacy here that you are leaving,” said New Alexandria Mayor Dorothea A Bacher.

To build that legacy, family, friends and fellow Boy Scouts, along with several businesses that provided Mack trucks, pitched in with about 350 hours of hard work to complete the boat launch in March. Used in the project were more than 200 tons of stone, several sheets of geoweb, a roll of fabric, a mini excavator, skid steer, brush hog, two backhoes, an all-terrain vehicle, wheelbarrows, rakes and shovels.

Vought said he had to clear brush and trees to gain access to the water because the entire area was overgrown with trees, bushes and tall grass. Trees larger than 3 inches in diameter were cut down.

For all of Vought's planning, the project got off to an inauspicious start. He was able to lay 81 feet of a 180-foot path before Super Storm Sandy flooded the creek in late October and put the entire project underwater. Vought said he waded into hip-deep water to retrieve geo-webbing, which had washed away and was caught in trees.

Loyalhanna Creek again deposited several inches of muck and mud atop the stone after heavy rains last week. Boaters using the launch will have to walk through the mess, unless the creek rises to the base of the exposed gravel.

The canoe/kayak launch helps connect the community to Loyalhanna Creek and may help to attract businesses, said Brad Clemenson, senior project manager for the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, who is spearheading a project to create a Loyalhanna Creek Water Trail map from Ligonier to the Conemaugh River. Clemenson said he hopes to have the river trail map, which will include the New Alexandria canoe/kayak launch, published soon.

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

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