Teens volunteer to help make park a community

Jacob Wiegand/The Herald
Fourteen-year-old Courtney Vittitow of Dubois, top of ladder, fastened a new volleyball net to its post with the assistance of her mother, Tammie, in orange, and Girl Scouts Troop 119 leader Kathy Messmer of Celestine on Sunday as fellow Girl Scout Alexis Hawkins of Celestine, 12, watched from below at the Dubois Community Park. As her Girl Scouts Silver Award project, Courtney decided to renovate the volleyball courts at the park, which were completed Sunday.


DUBOIS — Upgrades and renovations at the Dubois Community Park are helping make it an even better place to spend time with family and friends.


Over the past year, two teenagers have completed boy and girl scout projects at the park located at the corner of Jasper-Dubois Road and Highway 545 in Dubois. Park leadership — the Dubois Ruritan Club owns and manages the roughly 11-acre park — likes the gestures, and the kids’ parents say they wouldn’t be surprised if more projects are completed on the grounds in the future.

“It’s really neat with the youth of the community just kind of taking charge,” said Dubois Ruritan Club President Jason Hagen. “It seems like we’re starting to get a lot of traction with the boy scout (and) girl scout troops and different volunteers in the community stepping up to kind of do some of these projects and grabbing the bull by the horns so to speak.”

Sunday, Courtney Vittitow, 14, finalized a project that restored the park’s two beach volleyball courts. The project took over a year to complete. Planning began in April 2016, fundraising and grant-searching followed the Ruritan’s approval of the project in January, and work on the courts officially began in June. Trees surrounding the court that dropped spiky, gumball-like balls into the sand were removed last fall and the timber was used to make benches.

For Vittitow, the undertaking was a requirement in her pursuit of the Silver Award, the second highest award of the Girl Scouts of the USA, and the highest award that a Girl Scout Cadette — a member of the organization between the ages of 11 and 14 — can earn. She was a member of Troop 119 while working on the project, but has since moved up to high school Troop 60.

She said the project requirements include finding something in the scout’s community that’s a problem and that they’re interested in fixing. She noticed that the park volleyball courts were run-down, and the rest is history.

Now, the density of the courts’ new sand is more than double that of the old fill, the new railroad tie barriers that outline the playing field are official tournament dimensions and the new nets feature a bright blue coat of paint on their poles that make the area shine the same shade of blue you’ll find inside Northeast Dubois High School. In total, Vittitow spent 80 hours on the project, and said she couldn’t do it without the help of local donors and volunteers.

Last fall, 16-year-old Haysville resident Trey Mundy completed his Eagle Scout project at the park, which included the placing of about 20 tree identification signs — labeling trees like white pines, sycamores, hickories — and the planting of a bur oak tree.

Mundy called on the support of expert arborists such as a Purdue Extension employee and Vic Betz, a former biology teacher at Northeast Dubois High School, to help with the work. Now a full-fledged Eagle Scout, Mundy said identifying the trees is important because it brings us back to the earth and helps us understand our surroundings.

“The world’s getting further away from nature,” he said. “So, this is another way for people to reconnect. For me, people need to know what they have on their land.”

Tammie Vittitow, Courtney’s mother, said she thinks future girl scout projects could happen at the park, and Trey’s father, Chad — who is an assistant scoutmaster of the Dubois Crossroads’ Boy Scouts of America Troop 170    said it is definitely possible that boys in the troop will complete more projects at the Dubois Community Park, noting that the Ruritan Club has been welcoming and helpful to the group.

“It’s so rewarding in how the community pulls together for these projects,” Tammie said. “Because it’s a small community, everybody’s close-knit. Everybody’s willing to help out.”

Hagen said depending on the weather, between 75 and 150 people visit the park each day, with families coming to use the playground and other groups regularly meeting there. In the future, he said the Ruritan Club would like to see additional playground and sporting equipment introduced at the park, but said the club is open to anything the public thinks could be added or utilized. In addition to the volleyball courts and tree identifiers, the park is currently outfitted with a walking trail, playground and a shelterhouse.

The park’s annual Septemberfest will be held on Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2.

“I think from a community standpoint, it gives everybody a sense of pride just to see other individuals from the community stepping up and taking part in building the park,” Hagen said, adding that the workers are building a community, not just a park.

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