By: Greg Stopher | What happens when you ship a bunch of contractors/builders, a developer (who also builds) a realtor, an executive officer, an office manager, and a biologist off to camp? Sounds like a reality television show worth watching to me. Although there was a grand entrance and exit (there were actually many), there was no drama! There were no television cameras, only a good time in which all these great people came together to fix and repair cabins at the Boy Scout Camp.
Eagle River Scout Camp is located north of Juneau at Eagle Beach. It is owned by the Great Alaska Council of Boy Scouts of America. There are approximately four to five camp areas on the property consisting of three to four cabins each and a few other cabins south of a main lodge which acts as a great dining hall, and kitchen for the camp. There is a first aid cabin, archery range, rifle range and an assortment of other structures on the property. There are also new private bathrooms installed earlier this summer.
The Setting: Southeast Alaska Building Industry Association (SEABIA) came together for a work party over the course of a weekend in late August to help out the Camp by fixing and repairing some the cabins with donated materials and labor provided by members of SEABIA. A couple of weekends prior to the work party, a few of the contractors and the Executive Officer of SEABIA hiked out to look at the cabins to prepare a materials list and to prioritize work so that the camp could take advantage of licensed builders who had the ability to work on the more technical issues with some of the cabins that needed attention. Materials were then gathered, a list of projects developed, and the cast was set.
The Cast and Crew: You would think that putting a bunch of leaders in the building industry together would be the perfect set for a reality show. Not quite!
“The part that really jumped out at me was how we all have different methods, and work on different crews but when we jumped on the projects it was like we’d always worked together, everything meshed really well,” said Victor Banaszak, of VRB Construction.
Volunteers included Victor with VRB Construction, Russ McDougal with Mac’s Design and Construction, Laura Baker; Executive officer of SEABIA and Mac’s Design and Construction, Dave Berends who volunteers with the Boy Scout Camp, Rich Harris, RH Development and president of SEABIA, Mike Ban, Exit Realty of Juneau, and Judy Lum, a Fisheries biologist with the State of Alaska, as well as documentarian of the work with the photos, Dave Hanna, with Alaska Concrete Casting and Brad Fail, with VRB Construction, Susan Stopher, with Stopher Construction. Boy Scout Camp volunteers who work at the camp with maintenance and other programs where Dave Behrends and Jerry Taylor. Also present to help with the grunt work were Amelia Stopher (age 10) and Oliver Stopher (age 7), though rumor has it that they may have spent much of their time having fun on one of Juneau’s rare sunny days this summer on the beach, this report however has not been confirmed.
It all started on a Friday evening when many of us met at the trailhead to hike out and camp. To get to camp is about a two mile hike. We rendezvoused at the trail head to load materials and tools into a gator with a trailer to haul equipment and finalize logistics. Dave Hanna came the next morning with his machine to bring out even more tools. I hiked out with Oliver and Amelia and when we got to camp, Rich Harris had already arrived via shortcut. To get to the trailhead, we drove about 30 minutes to the trailhead and then hiked about 45 minutes to camp. Rich drove to the airport, hopped in his Husky and flew 10 minutes and landed right in front of the lodge on the beach. Rich had been wandering around camp for a little while wondering if we had skipped out, until he found us. Mike, Judy, Russ, Dave with the Gator, and Jerry finally made it out while Rich took off for the night, he would get his camping gear and return the next day to help during the day and stay Saturday night. We had a good diner then I signed off with the kids to make some s’mores to re-energize for the work ahead of us tomorrow.
Saturday came early with a nice big breakfast and list of what needed to be accomplished with the amount of people we had to make up crews. Laura, Victor, Brad, Susan, and Rich were ready Saturday morning and chomping at the bit to tackle these cabins. We had two cabins that needed roofs replaced, a couple of sunroofs in cabins that were leaking that needed repair and re-flashing, a lot of trees that had fallen in a wind storm, and an assortment of other items that needed attention. Brad and Victor tore the aluminum roofing off one roof while Rich and I torn another cabins roof off. The ground crew, (since they were not contractors and couldn’t be on the roof) consisted of Laura, Mike, Judy, Amelia, and Oliver. They picked up all the jagged roofing material and piled it neatly so it could be hauled away. Russ, who was also on the ground crew was cutting the “new” recycled steel roofing left over from one of Victor’s roofing jobs from a couple of months earlier. The roofing already had 25 good years of service and will last another 25+ years with the new fasteners. Meanwhile, Dave Hanna with his swamp buggy was taking care of the downed trees like Paul Bunyan! In fact, he made such short work out of the downed trees and cut up enough wood that it would keep every Boy Scout busy splitting for the entire next summer.
The roof took a little longer than expected since we had to replace some rotted sheathing before we could put new roofing on. By the end of the day we had one roof finished and another which was close to being finished but we ran out of roofing screws. No problem there, we had a plane at our disposal, so a trip to the hardware store via plane was quicker than a trip to the hardware store in a vehicle from North Douglas. Plus, we needed a break with a little beer and Aleve to get us through the evening’s festivities especially after such a long day of the roof.
We hauled all the burnable scraps to the beach in front of the lodge, a pile that would stack a story high and started a bonfire while Jerry made an open pit charcoal fire to cook burgers. Meanwhile Susan, Laura, and Judy put together all the sides and fixings to feed enough hungry contractors for miles. We all ate, and sat around the campfire and telling stories until late in the evening. After the fire died down and the story telling tapered off we all retired to our cabins to get ready for the final push Sunday morning.
Sunday came again all too soon and we had breakfast. The breakfast had a meat smorgasbord consisting of bacon, ham, bacon, sausage, bacon, and bacon. Eggs, hash browns, and toast were on the menu, as well as, pancakes made by Amelia. We got to work quickly on Sunday knowing that most of us worked all week right through the weekend and needed to be on the jobsite bright and early Monday morning. Plus, clouds were starting to roll in and rain was coming. We had our “plane delivered” screws to finish the last roof thanks to the quick jump down the canal by Rich. Everyone should have a plane on the jobsite; it would make runs to the lumber yards much quicker. We all finished up the projects we started and made it home on time for dinner Sunday evening.
We had accomplished many of the goals that we had planned to at the Boy Scout Camp. Two roofs were replaced, downed timber was taken care of, two cabins were painted on the interior, two cabins sunroofs were repaired and replaced, and a few other odd and ends buttoned up. Although we didn’t accomplish all of our goals, we have many projects to complete in the future including rebuilding an oil shed and some power washing, we did tackle the more dire items out at camp that weekend, but are looking forward to going back to spend another weekend next year. The work we did wasn’t like work at all, everyone worked very hard but we all worked well together and we all had a great time. On top of that we all bonded as a board along with fellow builders in the building industry. We would love to have more help next year to accomplish all the projects at Boy Scout camp. It’s not work if we are all having fun!
Greg Stopher has over 16 years of experience in the construction field and earned a degree in Construction Technologies from the University of Alaska – Southeast. His company, Stopher Construction, LLC, is a general contracting company specializing in remodeling, custom finishes, additions and new home construction projects. He can be reached at 907-321-2350.