By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — David Naftzger didn’t even know there was a hiking trail at the end of Whitmyer Drive when he started to plan his Eagle Scout project more than a year ago.
The specific project mattered less to Naftzger than the opportunity to give back to the town where he has lived since he was little, so he asked Niskayuna Town Supervisor Joe Landry where he could really make a difference.
Landry suggested he continue a tradition of volunteer work in one of the town’s less well-known, but still popular hiking paths.
“We have a core group of people who use these trails,” Landry said. “Volunteers marked and mapped it. That’s why this is an important project.”
It’s a trek that starts at the end of Whitmyer Drive at the edge of the water treatment plant — a trek that, until recently, frequently involved splashing through ankle-deep, stagnant water not far past the entrance.
There’s a 28-foot bridge there now. Naftzger and about fifteen volunteers spent an entire weekend building it this spring, which was quite a feat considering he had no idea how to build a bridge when he started the project.
Naftzger is a student at Albany Academy and, as his senior year approaches, hopes to study to become a pilot in college. He enjoys technical work, but knew he wasn’t prepared to construct something that people would walk across for, hopefully, many years.
A contractor friend helped him develop the design.
“It took a few drawings to actually get a good one,” Naftzger said. But that was just the beginning.
“Nothing ever goes as planned,” he said. That was a tough lesson to learn for a Boy Scout who was intent on completing the project before he had to face all the details of college applications.
He started the project early and had hoped to complete it by Thanksgiving in 2013, well before the end of his junior year. At first, he was on the right track. Supply donations came from Park Building Supply, Home Depot and Curtis Lumber. With volunteers and his dad’s truck at the ready, Naftzger was excited to get to work.
“I wanted to get it done before it snowed,” he said.
But the group faced one bad-weather day after another, and had to postpone construction four or five times before it could finally install the new bridge. Even when the job could be done, it was raining, but the team of volunteers kept at it.
After two days, a brand-new bridge, wide enough for two bicycles, finally had taken shape.
Naftzger, relieved and proud, said he learned a lot from the experience. “Just be patient,” he said. “Make sure everybody has a job to do.”