The Salem News
---- — Need help? Ask a Boy Scout.
The pages of this newspaper are often graced with stories and photos of young men pursuing Eagle Scout status by taking on large-scale community projects like eyeglass drives, playground restoration and hiking trail maintenance.
Now, the members of Troop 24 in Salem are stepping forward, ready to play a part in the preservation and restoration of the Washington Arch on Salem Common.
The wooden arch, which is more than 20 feet tall, is showing every bit of its 37 years of age. It was built in the bicentennial year of 1976 as a replica of one designed in 1805 by famed architect and woodcarver Samuel McIntire. The original archway was meant as a tribute to the country’s first president, who visited the city in 1789.
The current archway has begun to deteriorate in spots, and some pieces, including part of a carved profile of George Washington, are missing, according to architect Mark Meche, one of Troop 24’s leaders.
While the arch is in “tough shape,” Meche said, it can be repaired for less than $10,000.
That’s where the Scouts come in. Troop 24 — with about a dozen members in attendance in uniform at a City Council meeting last week — has pledged some of the proceeds from its popular door-to-door holiday wreath sale. (Council approval is needed because the arch is city property.)
Others have come forward, as well, including the Salem Common Neighborhood Association, which has already started fundraising, and the Salem Veteran’s Council. The hope is to have the arch’s carvings stabilized before winter, with more extensive work set for spring — all without the use of taxpayer money.
“This is a great example of people working together,” at-large Councilor Bill Legault said at last week’s meeting. “I love the concept.”
So do we.