KEARNEY — A local student stepped up to help others this summer by building a handicap-accessible foot bridge in Lions Park, located in the 100 block of South Jefferson Street in downtown Kearney.
Ben Watts, a Kearney High School senior, completed the bridge as part of his Eagle Scout Project with Troop No. 397 in Kearney.
When deciding what to do for his project, Watts said he initially had a lot of ideas and was hoping to beautify the Sam Barr Drive roundabout. After learning the city had a project there already underway, Watts said he contacted the city to see what other projects needed to be done.
“I know Jesse James Park needed some bridges. There were some other ones, but I choose doing the bridge in Lions Park because I thought it would be a better project than putting in benches.”
To complete the work, Watts and his team of volunteers had to demolish and remove the previous foot bridge and then construct a new, handicap-accessible option.
“We started planning our bridge around October,” he said of the work that ended this June. In addition to his father, Brian Watts, the general manager of Kearney’s 102.7 FM, two other adults from his Scout troop helped plan the work, Ben said.
The project, Ben said, taught him leadership skills.
“We started building it on June 21 or 22. … It went from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and took us one day to complete,” he said. “I would say around 12 to 15 people were out there helping us.”
Ben said he enjoys giving back to his community and that being an Eagle Scout is a family tradition.
“There’s a ton of good things that come out being an Eagle Scout. Also, I mainly did it because my dad and my grandpa were Eagle Scouts. I like to continue to have an Eagle Scout in our family name,” he said.
In addition to learning leadership skills through his Eagle Scout project, his favorite part of Scouting, Ben said, has been learning communication skills, which have brought him more out of his shell.
“I’m enjoying meeting new people and I enjoy the experience with them,” he said. “I’ve learned to be more social, get out and talk to people more. I’ve learned to be able to talk to people without feeling like being quiet or staying out of a conversation for very long.”
In addition to acquiring important skills like communication strategies and how to be a leader, the Eagle Scout said scouting has been fun with lessons in survival skills. Ben has earned 37 merit badges.
“I really like space exploration and archery,” he said.
For others who may consider joining Scouts, Ben said he recommends it.
“It’s a great experience to do scouting. … You meet new people, create new friends and have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.