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Eagle Scout builds rest area in Chicago Park

Grayson Coney, cultural director of the Tsi-Akim Maidu tribe (right), discusses the significance of native plants being planted at a new rest area along the Chicago Park Trail with Eagle Scout candidate Jakob Coonen, center. Fellow Troop 232 scouts, from left, Hunter Newnan, Josh Grassick, Travis Vanvekoven and Paul Osuna listen.
Submitted by Gerrie Coonen |

A new rest area along the Chicago Park Trail is the product of a local boy’s Eagle Scout project.

Chicago Park resident Jakob Coonen, 17, planned, organized, raised funds and managed the project built by fellow scouts of Troop 232.

The aim of the Boy Scouts of America program isn’t so much leaving infrastructure as it is training boys to become leaders of men.



“I found this project to be one of the most substantial achievements that I have accomplished in my life,” Coonen wrote. “I thought it would be quick and easy, but as I went along, I found it to be both in-depth and demanding.”

Kinda like life, said Troop 232 Scoutmaster Jerod Johnson.




Coonen’s project invites students, dog-walkers and others along the much-used trailway to pause before a vista of meadow and trees.

It’s 10 miles east of Grass Valley: Take Highway 174, turn right on Mt. Olive Road, then look for the big, right-hand curve bordered by a wooden fence.

The rest area is just past on the right, about half way between the Post Office and Chicago Park School.

A bench sets amid rocks and native plants.

The rocks look real, but they are crafted of cement and stained to appear natural.

Coonen recycled bottles and cans and did odd jobs to raise seed money. Local businesses including Hanson Brothers, B&C Hardware, Chicago Park Store and the Food Bank of Nevada County donated supplies.

He spoke to local service clubs and received funding from Grass Valley Host Lions, Madison Masonic Lodge and Gold Country Lions.

Over two days, fellow scouts from Troop 232 dug out weeds and blackberries, leveled an area for the concrete pad, hauled water, helped the mason, raked and cleaned, dug holes, and planted native shrubs and flowers.

Antonio Diaz supervised the pouring and shaping of the cement, then returned to stain the faux boulders.

Local landscaper Trina Mathews helped choose the spots for the native plants, donated by Weiss Brothers Nursery, Prospector’s Nursery and Master Gardeners of Nevada County.

Don Ryberg, chairman of the Tsi-Akim Maidu tribe, blessed the project by blowing sage smoke and chanting.

Maidu Cultural Director Grayson Coney taught the boys the significance of the native plants and giving back to the earth.

He also gave Coonen gifts the young man treasures: An atlatl, or stone javelin point found near the site; and a kerchief of Native American design holding feathers from a flicker and a red-shouldered hawk.

The rest area culminates a five-year scouting career in which Coonen has earned 35 merit badges – 14 more than required to earn Eagle rank, he said.

He is a senior at Ghidotti Early College High School in Grass Valley.

Troop 232 meets at and is sponsored by The Range, also in Grass Valley.

“This was an endeavor into which I had to sink myself wholeheartedly,” Coonen wrote. “Thanks to the help and the extreme generosity of the community and my fellow scouts, my project was a great success.”

For more about Troop 232, call 530-273-4440.

Freelance writer Trina Kleist can be reached at tkleistwrites@gmail.com or 530-575-6132.


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