Coventry resident replaces Westwood rope swing deck, earns highest rank in Scouting

From left: Mike Norklun, Westwood YMCA executive director, Sam Shippee and Andrew Clarkin work on installing new decking on the rope swing at Camp Westwood.

COVENTRY — Andrew Clarkin has grown up spending his summers at the Westwood YMCA. From learning to swim in the Quidnick Reservoir during his childhood, to becoming a swim instructor, himself, last summer, some of his fondest memories were made at Westwood. 

So when it came time for him to choose an Eagle Scout project, the choice was obvious. 

Clarkin, a high school senior and Coventry resident, had been contemplating possible Eagle Scout projects last year when it occurred to him that Camp Westwood was in serious need of a new deck at its rope swing. 

“They were thinking of taking the rope swing down because the insurance didn’t want to cover it anymore,” said Clarkin, who worked over the summer as a lifeguard at Westwood, teaching swimming, boating and paddleboarding.

The deck had seen better days, he said. Its boards were weathered, and some were missing from years of eager swimmers using it. Clarkin told the camp director his idea for restoring it, and the director agreed.

“I grew up going there,” Clarkin said, “so it was something that I thought was really important to fix, to make sure other people can enjoy it.”

Suspended by three telephone poles leaned together, their ends buried deep into the ground, the rope swing is a favorite among Westwood visitors. 

“It’s one of the biggest motivators for the kids,” Clarkin said of the swing. “I’ve probably taken hundreds of camp kids off of it. It’s a lot of fun.”

Kids in swimming lessons spend the beginning of the summer working toward becoming strong enough swimmers to be allowed to take a swing, he added.

Clarkin completed the project, the last major hurdle before earning the highest rank in Scouts BSA, in late November. Demolition of the old deck only took a little over an hour. The framing portion took maintenance workers several days to complete, Clarkin said, then he and several of his fellow Scouts spent a day redecking the surface. 

The weather proved to be the biggest challenge in completing the project, with rain and frigid temperatures causing various delays. Donations from a number of Coventry businesses, meanwhile, made Clarkin’s job easier. 

Coventry Lumber donated a pallet of Trex composite decking, worth nearly $2,000. Home Depot donated materials worth $200, S&T Hardware donated nuts and bolts and Tractor Supply donated an electric drill.

“That was a huge help,” Clarkin said of the donations, adding that without them it would have taken months of fundraising to afford everything. 

Clarkin joined Scouts BSA as a Bear when he was around eight. A member of Troop 158, he faced his Eagle Board of Review last week, around a decade after beginning his Scouting career, and is now officially an Eagle Scout.

“It doesn’t feel completely official yet,” he said of his achievement. “I think once I have my Eagle ceremony, that’s when it will start feeling real.”

As for his project, Clarkin said he looks forward to seeing kids enjoy the fruits of his labor once the camp opens for the 2021 season

“I know it’s a highlight of many of the members,” he said. 

He added that he hopes more residents will take advantage of Camp Westwood and all it has to offer — including its rope swing. 

“It’s a really great place in our community,” he said. 

kgravelle@ricentral.com

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(1) comment

jacko

A great project and tremendous example of leadership in the aggregate community ... CONGRATULATIONS upon attaining the Rank of EAGLE SCOUT with Boy Scouts of America![thumbup]

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