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Bachmeier project benefits community

Cole Bachmeier, of West Fargo, poses next to trees he planted in June at Westside Elementary School as part of his Eagle Scout project. Submitted photo

Sometime in late February, just as the first whispers of spring began popping up in casual conversations across the Midwest, Cole Bachmeier had a vision.

He wanted to plant trees. Dozens of them, maybe even hundreds. And he wanted to do it in a place that not only benefited the community, but where he could watch the aftereffect on a regular basis to keep tabs on progress.

It was a grand plan, really; and one that would help out his alma mater, Westside Elementary School in West Fargo.

The planets aligned, and the West Fargo High School student eventually discovered Westside was in need of quite a few trees to be planted. After contacting Westside teacher Diane Loberg, Bachmeier suddenly had a big task on his hands: find a way to get 274 trees in the ground by mid June.

To accomplish the seemingly monumental project would require months of preparation, the right contacts, and some serious sweat equity.

Fortunate for Bachmeier, he had acquired all the skills, and then some, thanks to his years in boy scouts.

And to top it all off, the project would help culminate his scouting career, which began as a cub scout in third grade, with the highest ranking in the program: Eagle.

"Only about four to five percent of scouts reach the rank," Bachmeier said.

Come Dec. 8, if all goes as planned, Bachmeier will be awarded the coveted title after a board review by his superiors. It will be the end of a long and sometimes stressful road for the 16-year-old, but it was all worth it, he said.

Rain, rain go away

Bachmeier had done his homework. He'd contacted officials with the North Dakota Chapter of the Soil and Water Conservation Society, who inundated the scout with information about planting trees.

"Distance between plants, how much water, what kind of trees for the soil, everything," Bachmeier said.

The SCWC even donated all the trees - a mix of willows, poplar and crabapple - and guaranteed to replace any that died.

Westside's Loberg directed Bachmeier to her son, who designed a diagram of where the trees were to be planted. The result was three concentric L's on the northwest side of the elementary school's property, just off 7th Ave West and a block south of Bachmeier's house.

Next, Bachmeier made a schedule for the big day, and lined up some volunteers.

Everything was in order, but there was one problem.

"It was always too wet," he said.

The deluge the Fargo area received in the spring and early summer kept the ground too saturated to plant the young saplings. Bachmeier was given a cutoff date of June 11 and no later because the trees wouldn't have enough time to grow before winter, likely resulting in a large mortality rate.

"People kept saying 'just wait until next year,' but I'd come so close. I really didn't want to postpone it for another year," Bachmeier said.

Then, maybe miraculously, the skies opened and Bachmeier got the window of opportunity he'd been looking for. On June 11 at 9 a.m., he and 30 volunteers spent three hours preparing, digging and planting the nearly 300 trees.

Finally, at long last, Bachmeier had completed the task he'd been mulling over for four months.

The process was not easy, but it was an invaluable learning experience, Cole Bachmeier's mother, Eileen, said.

"It was a reflection of how the real world is," she said.

Bright future

Scouts have been huge part of Cole Bachmeier's life up until now, but they're not his only passion. He's a well rounded individual, who enjoys everything from sports like track and soccer, to taking part in student council.

He wasn't always like that, however. Scouts helped him focus and be organized, he said, and taught what it meant to be a leader.

"There's a huge emphasis on community service in scouts," Cole Bachmeier said.

The inclusiveness of scouts also was a big draw. "They take everyone," he said. "It's the first organization I'd been in where it was youth-led."

Scouting helps prepare youngsters for the real world, where "mom and dad aren't always going to be there for you," Cole said. Reaching Eagle Scout rank is the pinnacle of the organization, and is an end to the journey.

Well, sort of.

"It's more of the end of the scouting mentality, but the beginning of utilizing those gifts you've gathered along the way," Cole said.

It's important to note, however, that scouting does not fully define Cole Bachmeier.

"It's only a piece of him; it complements the whole," Eileen Bachmeier said.