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New signage for Heartland Trail

Steven Osterman, of Park Rapids, spent many hours cutting and painting trail signs to exact DNR specifications.

The idea for new mileage signs along Heartland Trail began forming when Steven Osterman and his mother, Julie, were in the midst of a 50-mile bicycle ride.

The ride was required for a Boy Scout merit badge.

"I thought it would be nice to see how much further we had to go to the next town," he said. "It would be motivation."

He discussed this with his mother further and decided this could be his Eagle Scout project.

At 14 years old, Steven is one of the youngest to earn his Eagle Scout Award in Troop 58.

The ninth grader at Park Rapids Area High School met with the Eagle Board and received approval for his project. But it turned out to be more involved than he originally thought.

"I had to work with the DNR a lot to make sure the signs met their requirements," Steven said.

He and other volunteers he recruited spent time cutting the signs out of cedar.

"They had to be a certain size, certain letters," he said.

The DNR provided a manual with the exact specifications, including a certain kind of paint.

Steven began working on the project in June and it was completed in October.

The end result is 14 signs along the Heartland Trail with names of towns and the number of miles to get there.

It took 141 individual hours and 527 total hours, including all volunteers.

Another timely process was when Steven had to work with Gopher State One Call. He had to call the agency because he needed to dig holes in order to install the signs.

"They thought the trail was still a railroad track," Steven said.

He went back and forth with people at the agency, whose records were not current in showing the track had been turned into a trail.

The total project cost was $420, which Steven collected through donations.

Throughout the process, he was appreciative of everyone who helped him.

"People would stop while we were working to help," he said.

Julie is also proud of her son.

"It was a unique project and he learned a lot," she said. "Thousands and thousands of people will see these signs."

Steven is close to receiving his Eagle Scout Award. He has 46 merit badges although only 12 are required to receive the award.

He needs to return to the Eagle Board to explain his project and show them it is complete. Then he will have a ceremony.

He plans to stay in Boy Scouts and continue working on merit badges.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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