Columbus resident begins work on Eagle Scout project at Veterans Park

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, July 21, 2016

Columbus will begin to take notice of a new structure being built at Veterans Park this summer.

Nathaniel Watkins has been negotiating with the Town of Columbus, Polk County commissioners and his architect, Dean Trakas, to build a new pavilion in the park.

Before he began his project last week, Watkins went before the Town of Columbus council to address them and said he still needed $1,500. He received $500 from the town, $500 from the Polk County Board of Commissioners and $500 from private donors.

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Watkins is a graduate of the Polk County Early College. He also works at Bonnie Brae Veterinary Hospital as a receptionist’s assistant and goes to Lees-McRae College to study wildlife rehabilitation.

Honoring the veterans who have served while also reducing the cost of renting tents for events at the park are two reasons Watkins decided to tackle the project.

“I have a lot of family members who are veterans and this was my way to pay respect to what they have done,” Watkins said. “I’ve noticed, since I’m a resident, that they have to rent tents every time they have concerts or any kind of event there. That costs them around $300 and they have concerts perhaps once a week so that’s a lot of money. This is a way for the town to get a standing structure that will stay there forever.”

In order to become an Eagle Scout, Watkins must have laid out a project and completed it in order to gain entry into the scouts program. Watkins is currently a Life Scout and building the pavilion will secure his title as an Eagle Scout.

“I’m the highest you can be without being an Eagle Scout, which is a Life Scout, and you have to go through the ranks,” Watkins said. “You have to have a certain number of merit badges that are required to be an Eagle Scout, 23 or 24 I believe, and after you have met that requirement there are a bunch of book requirements that you have to do. After you’ve met those you have to pitch a project and complete it.”

Trakas owns and operates the Brady-Trakas architecture firm on North Trade Street in Tryon. According to Trakas, the pavilion should be done within a month, if the weather cooperates.

“It’s a real simple construction that is similar in style to the riverside construction in Harmon Field, if you want to use that for reference,” Trakas said. “I think we agreed on it being 22-by-32 square feet and it will have eight posts supporting a roof. The pavilion itself will be a shed-style, open-air structure for bands and performers at the park.”

The pavilion will cover the concrete slab in the park, according to Trakas. New slabs of concrete were added to set the posts up for the structure. These slabs surround the existing concrete at Veterans Park.

“Nathaniel is a bright and conscientious kid,” Trakas said, “and we’re really excited to do it for Polk County and the veterans.”

Watkins said he hopes to finish the project, which will cost an estimated $8,000, as soon as he can and added the project will be finished within a month. Watkins, his dad Marshall, and three other builders are a part of the team instrumental in setting up the structure.

“We had to talk to the architect for a change to make it more structurally sound and this upcoming weekend we should have the structure up,” Watkins explained. “We will then work on the roofing throughout next week.”

Marshall Watkins, who is helping build the structure, said there would be many benefits to his son doing this project.

“The Town of Columbus will no longer have to either rent a tent for their music or pay their staff to put one up. Another benefit is that it will be a beautiful addition to Veterans Park,” Nathaniel’s father said. “When Nathaniel is 40 years old and visits Columbus, he can show this to his children and be proud of what he has accomplished as well as use it as a motivational tool.”