Eagle Scout tackles Waxahachie trail sign project




Posted on May 15, 2011 at 10:06 PM

Updated Sunday, May 15 at 10:32 PM

Waxahachie Creek Hike & Bike Trail

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WAXAHACHIE — Two months after a high profile alleged sexual assault case was dropped, the City of Waxahachie has launched a safety campaign for its hike and bike trail.

Park officials scrambled to improve the park's image after a female runner claimed she was attacked by a male park visitor.

Six months later, the case was dropped for lack of evidence.

Now there's a fresh start to keep trail users alert, and it was all kept under budget with the help of some Eagle Scouts.

As an Eagle Scout, it's typical for 17-year-old Will Smolka to take on leadership roles. But his project, along a seven-mile stretch of Waxahachie Creek Hike & Bike Trail, may be his biggest yet.

"It's great to know that a small thing that you did in your community to help a lot of people," he said.

Smolka recruited his brothers, cousins and even an uncle to mark, measure, drill, and then post a series of 24 signs.

Their hard work ensures that park visitors will see short messages promoting health, safety and wellness four times every mile.

Smolka charged nothing for his labor. The city spent less than $2,000 for supplies and marketing.

And gratitude from the community? Priceless!

Jerry Hornback, a frequent trail user, compared the cost savings to a recent safety sign campaign along Dallas' Katy Trail, and he believes Waxahachie showed incredible financial acumen.

"Two-thousand dollars to accomplish more than what other cities do with $80,000 is a very good thing," Hornback said.

The Ellis County campaign is called "Walks-a-hachie." City spokesperson Amy Hollywood said the goal is to keep visitors alert, aware and safe.

"It is about safety, but it is also about health and wellness," she said, adding that the project is something the city would have done, regardless of recent news reports about the alleged sexual assault.

As trail use increases over the summer, Smolka's uncle said visitors shouldn't expect to be overwhelmed by the signs. The city kept them small to blend in with the trail.

But the Eagle Scout's cousin, Andrew Rossato, made sure they still looked cool.

"My rating would be a 10 out of 10," Rossatto said with a laugh.

E-mail sgables@wfaa.com