Those who take a walk along the Parade Path at the Redding Town Green may want to thank 18-year-old Nathaniel DeMelis.
As part of his Eagle Scout project, Nathaniel — a senior at Joel Barlow High School in Redding — greatly extended the path.
Created in 2003, the Parade Path is a public garden run by local volunteers and supported by donors.
With the help of fellow Boy Scouts, Nathaniel extended the path an additional 100 feet. He also widened it to eight feet. Previously, the path had ended only one-third of the way down the garden; now, it extends halfway down the garden.
“It was a very short path,” Nathaniel said. “I made it longer and wider.”
“The extension of the path enables people to walk along it and see the botanical gardens and plants on it,” he said. “You can stop and take in all the smells of nature.”
According to Ellen Visnyei, a Parade Path volunteer coordinator, the path features native and well as specimen plantings, including redbud trees, lilacs, and Montauk daisies.
Eagle Scout is the highest achievement or rank attainable in the Scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. To earn the Eagle Scout rank, scouts must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service and outdoor skills.
In 2014, 6% of eligible scouts earned the Eagle rank award, according to Scouting Magazine.
Nathaniel, who has been in the Scouting program since he was six years old, said there were many steps involved in his Eagle project.
It took Nathaniel three days to make the path, “due to the hard work of the scouts who helped me and the generous donations I received,” he said.
The path is made of gravel and fieldstone, he explained.
“Expanding it involved a lot of technical placement in terms of where we were going to put the stones,” he said. “The length and width of the path had to be measured very carefully.”
Local businesses donated their services and machines to help with the initial trench for the path, according to Nathaniel.
In addition, Nathaniel’s grandfather, Everett Cantanessa, and his uncle, Eric Cantanessa, who are both masons, helped him lay the stone.
Nathaniel said the only complication he encountered was that due to inconsistencies in the path, “we needed an extra half ton of gravel and as a result, ended up with more stone dust [crushed stone] than we needed.”
The purpose of the stone dust is to keep the stones from moving. Nathaniel needed to use the extra stone dust in some way, so he used it on a different portion of the path.
Nathaniel said it has been a long road to becoming Eagle Scout.
“Over the years, I noticed a lot of my friends stop going to a lot of the meetings,” he said. “Their interests tapered off.”
When the going got tough, Kevin Blackwell, Nathaniel’s scoutmaster, served as a great mentor to him, Nathaniel said.
“He helped guide me through the rougher patches and helped me out on projects in terms of getting what I needed to do,” Nathaniel said. “He kept me going in the right direction and motivated me.”
During his Cub Scout years, Nathaniel said he has great memories of the Pinewood Derby, for which he built a miniature car from wood and raced it against other scouts’ cars.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. “The older scouts would give me tips. Each car was different and unique.”
“I’ve saved them all,” said Nathaniel, adding he especially liked the Mario car he made one year.
Once he became a Boy Scout, Nathaniel said he had a great time on all the hikes and backpacking trips he took.
In 2013, for the National Scout Jamboree, he traveled to West Virginia for a week “with a bunch of troops, where we went rafting, did ropes courses, and went ziplining,” he said.
In 2017, he went backpacking in New Mexico for two weeks. “We did 100 miles of backpacking, submitting two peaks,” he said.
“Nathaniel joined Cub Scouts in first grade and was in the same den as my son. As the assistant den leader, I had the pleasure of watching him grow and progress through the ranks of Cub Scouts and then cross over into Boy Scouts,” said Trevor Furrer, Eagle Scout adviser of Troop 15. “Nathaniel worked hard on moving up the ranks toward Eagle Scout and learned many great skills — most of all, leadership. Equally important was that Nathaniel always had lots of fun along the way. He embraced the big service project which is one of the main requirements for Eagle Scout. Leading other scouts and troop leaders, Nathaniel worked with Redding Town Hall and Ellen Visnyei, head of the Parade Path Committee, to create a gravel-filled— and stone-skirted path along the Town Green. The path is designed to give residents a view of the beautiful town specimen gardens.”
Nathaniel said the ability to plan ahead is what led him to achieve Eagle rank.
“Planning helped me lay the groundwork for this project,” Nathaniel said. “Scout leaders tell Boy Scouts to be prepared all the time, but until you go work on a project, you don’t realize how important planning is.”
Nathaniel is now planning for his future. In the fall, he will attend Tulane University in New Orleans and double major in English and political science. He is on a pre-law track.
“I still can’t believe it,” said Nathaniel, when referring to his journey to Eagle. “It was a fun climb.”