This chapter in teen story should be told

Tuesday, May 12, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

No blood, no scandal, not even much of a crime. I'm afraid an account of trouble in this little park in Blue Ash will never make headlines. Still, it seems like a story worth telling.

Brian Parsons, just turned 16, is working to become an Eagle Scout. This makes him special, but not unique. Dan Beard Council has about 70,000 Boy Scouts. Of these, only about 2 percent will ever become Eagles, scouting's highest rank.

Square knots, old ladies

They have to do considerably more than help little old ladies cross the street and tie square knots.

Joseph Fowler, a Loveland Eagle Scout, built a stone path at the historical society there this spring. Paul Sakalas, a McNicholas High School senior, fixed a trailer damaged by last year's floods. Williamstown, Ky., has freshly painted curbs thanks to Dewey Takacy. Eric Lafay, who became an Eagle Scout in March, gave his time to a shelter for cats.

Well, you get the idea.

Brian, a sophomore at St. Xavier High School, lives in Blue Ash and is a member of Montgomery Troop 674. He built swings for Hunt Park, at the corner of Hunt Road and Floral Avenue. Not kiddie swings, but substantial wooden bench swings. He thought they should be beautiful as well as useful.

Several generations live near this little rural oasis, surrounded by pretty Cape Cod houses and mulched flower beds. You are as likely to see somebody struggling with a walker as you are to see babies in strollers. A swing set, picnic tables, a bike rack. A little path. Trees and grass. Not fancy, but very peaceful.

It took nearly three months to complete Brian's plan. If this seems a little extreme for two simple wooden swings, it should be understood that Brian planned for these to last "forever." Or the teen-age approximation of that.

Also, he had to work with the city of Blue Ash and his own troop to get approval. Then, every Saturday morning for seven weeks, he hammered and sawed and sanded. "If this kid said he was going to be here at 6:30, he was. On the dot," says Dan Walter, supervisor of Blue Ash parks.

Playing too hard?

The benches were completed and installed Saturday, May 2. Brian's grandparents sat in the swings and had their pictures taken. "It was," according to Brian's mother, Laura, "a very special moment." That night, one of the swings was pulled from the frame. Vandals, perhaps. Brian thinks maybe he should have made them stronger. Test weight was 800 pounds. Anyway, they've been fixed. Stronger bolts. One swing is back up, and the other will be hung by the end of the week.

Now, it's true somebody played too hard on Brian's beautiful redwood swings. Kids, probably. But nobody spray-painted them. And this young man's contribution to his community was taken seriously by the people in charge. "The city has been just wonderful," according to Brian.

He says he "felt bad" when he saw what had happened to the swings. But he's not worried. "The people in the neighborhood are very concerned about this park." He seems to think they'll take care of it.

Brian Parsons is not a saint or anything. Just a nice, hard-working person. Dependable. Possibly the tiniest bit naive and idealistic. Somebody might come back and test the strength of his swings, maybe even test the resolve of the city to keep them there. I'd hate to think so. For now, I'd rather think about this nice kid, sanding a redwood bench on his Saturdays. Or another boy carefully designing a shelter for homeless cats.

It is worth remembering that teen-agers like these are special. But not unique.

Laura Pulfer's column appears in the Enquirer on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Call 768-8393 or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio (91.7 FM), and as a regular commentator on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. E-mail her at