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Hempfield teen's Eagle Scout project delivers playground to Unity nature reserve

| Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2015, 8:15 p.m.
Luke Persin, 17, of Greensburg, recently completed his Eagle Scout worked this summer at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve in Unity. He worked over 100 man hours clearing an area of brush and trees to create a play and picnic area, including planting grass, mulching, adding picnic tables, tree-stump seats, swing on a tree limb and another tree carved into a playset.
Evan Sanders | Trib Total Media
Luke Persin, 17, of Greensburg, recently completed his Eagle Scout worked this summer at Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve in Unity. He worked over 100 man hours clearing an area of brush and trees to create a play and picnic area, including planting grass, mulching, adding picnic tables, tree-stump seats, swing on a tree limb and another tree carved into a playset.

As Luke Persin put finishing touches on his Eagle Scout project at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve, children began to play on the swings in an area that had been overgrown and impassable.

“It was really cool to see the community actually using it,” said Persin, 17, of Hempfield.

Persin, a member of Troop 465 that meets at Harold Zion Lutheran Church led by Scoutmaster Mark Mennano, started his project in mid-June and completed it in August after about 102 hours of community service and with the help of 10 fellow Boy Scouts.

The project included improving an area near the entrance to the Unity environmental preservation site on Old Route 981.

Persin and his troop members added picnic tables, seats made from stumps, swings attached to tree limbs and another twisting tree cut to mimic a jungle gym after clearing the area, adding mulch and planting grass.

“The whole area was full of brush and weeds, and you couldn't even walk through it before,” he recalled.

Angela Belli, director of the reserve, said Persin's leadership skills were apparent during the project.

“Luke is a very initiative-driven, organized and responsible young man,” she said.

Persin is one of four Scouts working on their Eagle Scout project this year at the reserve, which has hosted about a dozen similar projects since it opened in 2007, Belli said.

“He has been one of a number of Eagle Scouts to help transform that space into an opportunity for people to reach into nature and support our mission of nature explore education,” she said.

The Arbor Day Foundation has designated the area as a certified classroom, along with Eagle Scout projects adding an insect hotel for pollinators and updates to the compost demonstration area and music area.

“Many, many families are already enjoying that space that enhances our mission,” Belli said.

Now, Persin must sit before a board of review before officially receiving the highest honor in Boy Scouts.

Son of Mark and Kim Persin, Luke is a senior at Hempfield Area High School. He serves as captain of the tennis team, student council president, saxophonist in concert band and a member of the varsity soccer team, rifle team, National Honors Society, Spanish National Honors Society and Science National Honors Society. He also helps take care of the family's farm animals and rides dirt bikes in his spare time.

He is considering a career in the medical field and is studying at Saint Vincent College.

He has three siblings, Kyle, 15, Jessica, 14, and Olivia, 13, who helped with his Eagle Scout project.

His mother said Luke has always enjoyed the outdoors, which led him to Scouting, but she knew he should achieve the Eagle Scout rank as a capstone to the years he has dedicated to the hobby.

“He was a Boy Scout because he enjoyed helping younger Scouts,” she said. “We're glad that (his project's) finally getting done.”

Persin said he enjoyed the view of Saint Vincent College while working at the reserve and is glad to know that with the newly cleared area, visitors will be able to enjoy it better as well.

“It really opens that area up for a more picnic and family-oriented area,” he said.

The Scout wished to thank his fellow troop members, Scoutmaster and Belli.

“She was really supportive and helpful with anything I needed,” said Persin, adding that his parents also played a big role in his aspiring to be an Eagle Scout.

“They've been really helping in the whole process and really encouraged me to carry through with everything.”

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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