Churchill Road Park in McLean has a newly refurbished bridge, thanks to local Boy Scout Samuel Williams.
Williams, 17, recently completed construction on one of the park’s bridges as a part of his effort to become an Eagle Scout.
The bridge project was no small feat, requiring eight months of planning as authorization to work on the site had to be first approved by the Fairfax County Park Authority, the Boy Scouts of America Council, and others.
“We originally said, ‘okay, this will be a pretty simple project.’ Of course, we hit a bunch of challenges along the way,” Williams said. “There was a lot of times, originally, where we thought we’d have to abandon the project and I’d have to completely restart it.”
Physical work on the aging bridge began on Aug. 28, starting with the installation of new, pressure-treated lumber to give its deck a longer life. Williams enlisted the help of his father and a couple of friends — with pizza and Gatorade as an extra incentive — to begin replacing the boards.
The new bridge was completed on Sept. 19. Williams credits his father, a mechanic, for getting the project to the finish line.
“He loves to work with his hands,” Williams said. “…He also taught me how to use a lot of different tools, drills and stuff. And he was the one that really helped me through this.”
Renovating the Churchill Road bridge wasn’t what Williams initially had in mind for his Eagle Scout project.
He originally planned to paint a map of the United States at a local elementary school playground, but found there wasn’t much of a desire or need after talking with school principals and officials.
The idea of tackling the bridge came in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Virginia was under a stay-at-home order. Looking for an acceptable way to get out of the house, Williams began to bicycle more frequently, which led him to the familiar bridge at the park.
“I grew up going over this bridge as a kid and playing in the creek it crosses over. One day, I was biking and I went over it and realized that it is really in rough shape,” he said. “…I thought, ‘okay, here’s a new project. I can repaint this bridge.'”
At first, Williams only noticed that the paint on the bridge was wearing off, but upon further inspection, he found that the deck boards were rotting away and the railings wobbled.
“I could just slap a new coat of paint on this thing and call it done, but that wouldn’t really do much benefit because this thing is going to collapse within a year, this thing is going to fall apart,” Williams said. ”
So, a straightforward paint job expanded into a full overhaul of the bridge, a process prolonged by some confusion over who owned the facility.
Once the project was completed, though, the Langley High School student could take pride in how it had pushed him outside his comfort zone.
“To actually be able to step back, take a look at everything I had just done and see eight months of hard work put down in a way that could actually help the community, it was the most rewarding feeling that I’ve probably ever had,” Williams said.
Williams first joined BSA Troop 128 around the beginning of seventh grade. Earning the Eagle Scout rank is something he has been working toward ever since, with the support of scout masters and other troop members.
“Originally I set out into Boy Scouts to be outside, meet new people and have a great experience,” he said.
“But after going to several Eagle courts and…seeing what these guys had been doing all these years, and being able to say, ‘hey, I’m an Eagle Scout,’ to me, it wasn’t just something I wanted to put on my college application. It was something that I wanted to have the rest of my life and be able to say that I was an Eagle Scout.”
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