Scout plaques annoy residents

A Boy Scout Eagle Scout marker at a trailhead of the Flint Canyon Trail at Commonwealth Avenue and Berkshire Avenue in La Cañada Flintridge on Tuesday, June 18, 2013. The markers note the completion of a trail related project that a Boy Scout did to become an Eagle Scout and the city's Parks and Recreation Commission has recommended to leave them in place. Trail advocates want to see them removed, but Scout leaders want them to remain. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / June 18, 2013)

After they renovated sections of a trail in La Cañada Flintridge, two local Eagle Scouts were recognized last year with personal plaques displayed near their completed projects. But trail advocates weren't pleased with the location of the monuments: on the edge of the trail, where residents run and ride bicycles or horses.

Randy Strapazon, a former member of the La Cañada Flintridge Trails Council, told city council members earlier this month that she believes personal recognition signs or plaques should not be allowed on natural open spaces.

"As a longtime trail user, I'm both outraged and saddened by this development," Strapazon said. "Acknowledging the work of volunteers is a long-standing tradition in our community. Installing permanent monuments on our trails is not."

City officials and the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation Department plan to work together to create a policy for future personal recognition requests along the trails. For now, they will leave the existing plaques in place. Officials estimate there are a total of seven plaques on display for trail-related projects.

Two of the plaques, which each list the Scout's name and his troop, were placed into the ground just outside the Commonwealth Avenue entrance to the Flint Canyon Trail in 2012, but were recently relocated to an area just off the trail by a Los Angeles County trail crew.

Ralph Beltran, trail supervisor at the county parks department, said the plaques were moved to prevent people from tripping on them.

Personal recognition plaques are not exclusive to La Cañada, he said. "We have other plaques throughout our county trail system to recognize individuals."

The county department will review the issue internally and work with the city to create a solution, he said. "Until we come up with a policy, the plaques are going to stay where they are. It's time to set a standard for everything."

Jeff Olson, chair of the city's Parks and Recreation Commission, said officials want to create a centralized location for future recognition plaques. That could be Memorial Park, City Hall, or another public area.

The commission appreciates what the Scouts have completed and didn't think it would be fair to remove the plaques, said Olson. But without a set policy, they are concerned that allowing recognition plaques for any individual or organization — not just the Boy Scouts — in the future might open up a can of issues.

John Moe, co-scout master of Boy Scout Troop 507, dismissed the notion that there would be a proliferation of plaques if officials did not set a policy.

"I believe that position is ludicrous," he said. "Boy Scout troops have been working on projects in the city of La Cañada … for over 50 years. I can only confirm a total of seven plaques. So the idea that there is going to be a proliferation of plaques on the trail is absurd."

There is a tradition of Scouts receiving plaques for completing an Eagle Scout project dating back to about 1928, he said. And the plaques, he added, are usually about 6 inches by 6 inches in size, small enough to be unnoticeable.

To receive a plaque, Scouts must request one and the troop, along with a sponsoring organization, must approve the design. Moe said some Scouts, including his son, have chosen to forgo a plaque after completing a project.

Moe did not agree with the commission's decision to create a centralized location for recognizing community service work.

"I think the decision to have plaques in a central location makes little sense to me," he said. "It seems that you want the plaque where the work was actually done as a testament to the boy, the troop and the organization who did the work."

The projects completed on the Flint Canyon Trail were "arduous, difficult, backbreaking work," he said, which included digging holes for posts and using jackhammers, shovels and picks.

This weekend, Troop 507 will work on a large trail project in Altadena — where Moe said a Scout has the opportunity to receive a recognition plaque if he wants it.

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