Steamboat Springs A new school year and soccer season can be stressful for any student.
Add the pressure of completing an ambitious Eagle Scout project and you get 15-year-old Lewis Cutter, a sophomore at Christian Heritage School who quickly is learning how to juggle responsibilities while striving to earn the top honor bestowed upon Boy Scouts.
Since last spring, Cutter has been planning a multi-thousand-dollar project that will bring a new and improved playground to the Steamboat II and Heritage Park area.
The project, one of the most important and time-consuming requirements of achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, has taken Cutter from school board meetings to preschool classrooms, where he has presented his plans to community leaders and interviewed toddlers in an effort to create the ideal playground.
"It started off easy, but as we get more into it, I realize I still need to get a lot of things together," Cutter said. "And school started, so that's made life hectic."
The idea for the project came to Cutter when he realized the playground adjacent to Heritage Park Preschool and the Christian Heritage School wasn't suitable for older children. Before long, Cutter was researching state playground safety requirements and equipment manufacturers.
"He has just done a ton of work," said Audrey Zwak, Cutter's project mentor and the director of Holy Name Preschool.
While legwork on the project has taken considerable time and effort, fund raising has proven the most difficult task. The playground Cutter would like to build will cost $28,000.
But after raising about $12,000, Cutter has been forced to limit the scope of his work in hopes more money can be raised in the future to carry out his complete vision for the project.
With the current level of funding, Cutter plans to install swings, a new sandbox and a large shade structure at the playground. He'll also remove the pea gravel playground surface and replace it with safer rubber chips.
Donations have come from grants and a local family, and some community members have offered volunteer labor and materials.
Anyone interested in donating money or labor for the work can contact Zwak at Heritage Park Preschool or Cutter at Christian Heritage School.
A community volunteer day is planned for Oct. 9, when work will begin to remove all pea gravel and other playground materials that won't be part of the new facility.
"It has so many different elements that really make it a community project," Zwak said. "It's going to be nice."
The playground is accessible to Steamboat II and Heritage Park residents as well as families using the soccer fields adjacent to Christian Heritage School and to the Evangelical Free Church.
Cutter hopes the project's initial phase will be completed by the end of the year, when he'll also finish the detailed project portfolio that will be evaluated by Boy Scout leaders.
Most of all, he hopes his project will provide a positive attribute for the west of Steamboat area.
"At times it kind of feels good that you're helping out with the community," Cutter said. "The playground helps out the preschool, the school, the church and people who use the soccer fields."
Cutter, currently a Life Scout, is one of the highest-ranking scouts in Routt County.
He hopes to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout early next year. He is a member of Boy Scout Troop 194.
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