North Muskegon — Connor Reilly stands in front of 17 volunteers at Duck Lake State Park.
He’s a little nervous because he knows this is the moment of truth.
“It was stressful,” Connor said. “A lot of the stuff we did wasn’t difficult; it was just a ton of prep work and many different jobs.”
The process was long and grueling. The Eagle Scout Project Connor has been planning for a year has taken more than 300 hours of preparation, fundraising and organizing to finish and is finally near its completion.
Connor gives instructions to the small workforce there to help him conquer the final part of the task.
Now, it’s time to go to work.
Connor, a 14-year-old Boy Scout from Walker, Michigan, along with the help of volunteers, successfully updated the signs and trail maps for Duke Lake State Park on Saturday, Aug. 19.
The project included the removal of old posts and signs and implementing 43 new signs throughout the park for the popular hiking trails.
The trail signs were in dire need of an upgrade, said Gregory Sherburn, unit supervisor for Duck Lake/Muskegon State Park.
“Our signage system for trails was not very good. Almost nonexistent,” he said. “It needed to be done so our hikers could navigate.”
Connor, who is a member of Troop 304, chose the trail as his Eagle Scout Project because of the challenge it presented him.
“It made me use my brain,” Connor said.
On Aug. 19, Connor served as the organizer for the different groups he had helping with the project. The groups had many jobs from putting up new posts, putting up new signs to taking down old signs.
Connor’s job was to oversee each group, answer any questions they had and making sure everything ran smoothly. Although he wasn’t physically working in the field, he was the master mind behind the operation.
“He was a little nervous at first. You could tell when he was giving directions to people,” said Connor’s mom, Carmen Reilly about Connor leading the charge. “After the first 20-30 minutes, he was focused and much more clear and that was neat to see, too. After he answered the first few questions, you could tell he felt more confident.”
Carmen Reilly served as Connor’s driver for the day. Whenever anyone called and asked for Connor’s assistance in an area within the park, his mother drove him there.
“I am very proud of him. He did an amazing job,” Carmen Reilly said.
The trail map signs were designed by Connor and made by Advantage Sign and Graphic Solutions, which had worked with Muskegon State Park in the past.
Along with the massive logistical challenge the project came with, it was also a hefty cost for Connor. The signs cost around $4,500; money was raised through donations.
Duck Lake State Park is around 730 acres, with the trails for hikers reaching to about that distance as well. The 15 larger signs will be confidence markers for hikers and the 28 smaller signs will point hikers in the direction of the confidence markers.
Prior to Saturday’s completion, Connor spent a few days at the park testing tools and mapping out the trails. He used an app and walked the trail several times prior to Saturday to make sure the project would be successful.
The Saturday project lasted around four hours.
“When he picked the project, there was a tiny part of us that thought it would be easy,” Carmen Reilly said. “We didn’t anticipate it being that difficult.”
Even Sherburn was a bit surprised when Connor took on the assignment a year ago, due to the size of the project, but was pleased with the outcome.
“The only time I had reservations was in the beginning, but (Connor) assured me he could get it done,” he said. “From that point on there was no doubt he could do it. He handled a lot of pressure. The project itself is a great project for the park.”
For Connor, the assignment proved to him that he could do anything he set out to do.
“When the project was finished, it was a relief and relaxing,” he said. “It was a rewarding project because it’s something I’ve never done before and it’s a bigger project than I’ve worked on before.
“A lot more weight was put on my shoulders, and it’s a huge rewarding feeling completing the project. I learned in general that I can push my patience and work ethic more than I thought I could.”
Connor and his family will go through the park one last time to make sure everything is in order.
The park is open to hikers now and Sherburn said he plans to perform a walk-through Tuesday.
“It feels good to have the trails marked,” he said. “This project is going to last a very long time.”