Eagle Scout builds trail

JACKSONVILLE — An Eagle Scout's trail project has improved access to Rich Gulch in the Jacksonville Woodlands Association's trail system.

C J Mundell, 14, of Central Point, completed the 700-foot trail with help from others in April. He organized the project after learning a member of his church told him the association wanted to build a new trail.

Mundell said doing the organizing work was challenging.

"It was pretty hard for me. I'm not much of a phone person," he said. "I learned from the experience. I'm better equipped (now) to do another volunteer group."

Mundell made arrangements to borrow hand tools from the Bureau of Land Management; met with Bob Schroeder of the woodlands association to lay out the trail; and spent time on the phone recruiting others for the project.

"I led them and told them what to do," said Mundell, a member of Troop 102, which is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Central Point.

"There were Scouts from my troop and adults and friends that came out and helped," he said.

Working with hand tools during spring break, the crew created a trail where none existed before.

"Going up one hill there was a whole bunch of rock," Mundell said. "We had to kind of work around it. The first hill was all muddy and slippery and pretty hard to dig into. It was also pretty steep."

The new French Gulch Trail leads into a 40-foot-deep gully that was created by hydraulic mining that continued into the 1940s, said Larry Smith, executive director of the association.

"It adds a spectacular area (to the trail system). It's a short trail, easily accessible," said Smith. "We plan to put a mining display down there."

Hikers have two options to reach French Gulch. They can take the 1.5-mile Rich Gulch Trail from the upper Britt parking lot or a shorter route that starts at the end of South Oregon Street.

The Petard family created the gulch in hopes of finding the "mother lode," the source of the gold that washed downhill into the stream where gold was discovered in the 1850s. Decades of work produced little return, Smith said, and when the Petards finally reached what they hoped was the mother lode, they discovered the gold was already dispersed.

At the end of the trail, hikers will discover rocks washed out by years of hydraulic mining. They also will be at the head wall of a reservoir built by the Petard family that stored water for the hydraulic mining.

Mundell wrote reports on the site's history and the trail project as part of the Eagle Scout requirements. He is the first Scout to attain the Eagle rank at age 14 during the five years Jared Idiart has served as scoutmaster.

"Being an Eagle Scout is pretty rare in itself. When you do it at 14 its even rarer," said Idiart. "It's one of the better projects I've been involved with in terms of the boy taking over and showing others what to do and where to go. He definitely demonstrated leadership."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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