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Local Scout completes lifesaving Eagle project

Matt Lichter's air ambulance landing pad was used within a week of its creation to life-flight a man having a medical emergency.

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Matt Lichter, a freshman at Park Rapids Area High School, created an EMS helicopter landing zone in Clay Township for his Eagle Scout project. (Submitted photo)

A Park Rapids Area High School freshman recently created a helicopter landing zone for air ambulances as his Eagle Scout project, pending approval by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Eagle Board.

Matt Lichter, 14, is the older of two children of Mike and Sandra Lichter and a member of Park Rapids Boy Scout Troop 58. He is also involved in trap shooting, swimming, baseball and the senior league at Calvary Lutheran Church.

A Scout since he was in first grade, Lichter estimates that he has earned approximately 27 merit badges.

Eagle is the highest of seven ranks in Boy Scouting. In order to reach it, Lichter said, a Scout must advance through the other six, reaching the Life rank, and achieve at least 21 merit badges of which 13 specific badges are required.

“The township that I did it for, Clay Township, is going to make a town hall,” said Lichter. “They thought it would be a good idea to have a helicopter pad right by the town hall.”

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Lichter’s dad Mike added, “The (county’s) emergency manager had seen a need, because they’d had to use County 4 as a landing site in the past, up in that area, because there really are no farm fields or openings or parking lots.”

So, Matt talked it over with the township board, who approved the idea, as did the troop committee and the Eagle Board.

“After that, you can start whenever you want,” he said. “After you get done, you have to do a whole bunch of paperwork, and then you go back to the Eagle Board and tell them what you did, and they either sign it off or they give you another month to do it, if you did it wrong.”

Not all of the work needs to be done by the Scout’s two hands. According to the BSA manual, the object of an Eagle project is to “plan, develop and give leadership to others in a service project helpful to any religious institution, any school or your community.”

To create his helicopter landing site, Lichter enlisted the aid of Cumber Construction to bulldoze a clearing in the brush, trees and grass, 150 feet in diameter, and to push dirt together to form a driveway. The company also donated sand to put over the bare dirt, “then we went out there and seeded it with grass seed,” said Matt. “Flying W Gardens donated paver bricks and installed them in the big ‘H.’”

Allen Jessop, who flies a fire helicopter for the DNR in Bemidji, and town supervisor Andy Kietzman helped choose the site, about a mile north of Emmaville on 290th St.

Itasca-Mantrap Cooperative Electrical Association donated bright orange balls to mark the power lines near the clearing and the labor to put them up.

North Memorial Health Air Care and Ambulance Services donated a windsock to put up on the edge of the landing zone. Other sponsors included Mark and Margie Vik and the Emmaville community.

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In addition, Lichter had help from Troop 58, members of Calvary Lutheran Church, family members and friends to paint bricks, transplant trees, pick up rocks and sticks, rake and seed the site, and put up the windsock.

“We seeded it one more time after that,” said Matt, adding, “I think it went very well. I think it looks really nice and serves its purpose.”

To the point, the landing zone was used within the first week to life-flight a man who was having a medical emergency. “They just drove him down the road and picked him up in the helicopter and flew him away,” said Matt. “It saved his life.”

Asked why he likes Scouting enough to put forth all that effort, Lichter said, “I don’t know. I like being outside and camping, and stuff like that.” He added that at Scouting camp, he enjoys working on his merit badge skills, swimming, and hanging around the camp.

A fun part of his Scouting experience has been trips to Yellowstone, the Boundary Waters and Mount Rushmore. “Next year,” he said, “we’re going to Florida, SCUBA diving” in the Keys.

Asked about the qualities he sees in himself, he added, “I think I’m hardworking and a good leader.”

After achieving the Eagle rank, Lichter will be able to continue earning merit badges – known as Eagle Palms – until age 18. He doesn’t know whether he wants to continue after that as an adult Scout leader, but he would like to do “something in engineering” after high school.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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