CLIFTON PARK — Clifton Park has a new open spaces website and a Shenendehowa student to thank for it.
Chris Bell, an 18-year-old senior, created the website — http://cliftonparkopenspaces.org/ — as part of his Eagle Scout project.
“When it came to my Eagle Scout project I wanted to do something for my community and I wanted to do something that involved nature and technology,” said Bell.
His project, which took about a year to complete, was focused on the Dwaas Kill Nature Preserve. Bell raised $1,300 for materials and enlisted the help of 20 volunteers to mark the walking trails, create and install railroad safety signs, refurbish an old kiosk and build a new informational kiosk at the Preserve’s Pierce Road entrance.
The final part of Bell’s project involved working with town staff and the Open Space, Trails and Riverfront Advisory Committee to build a public website to promote the town’s parks, preserves and open spaces. “I did all the site development — from web hosting to picking the content management system to creating all the pages to contacting photographers to get permission to use to use their photos,” said Bell.
Bell attended a summer computer course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute over the summer, which he said came in handy. His father helped out whenever he ran into a snag.
Bell called the project a great learning experience and said the project helped him realize how important it is to preserve open spaces, protect the local watershed, protect the natural habitat for native wildlife and help people reconnect with the natural world around them.
Bell said Open Space Coordinator Jennifer Viggiani and Clifton Park’s Director of Communications and Technology, Dahn Bull, were “both extremely helpful and provided a lot of support and guidance.”
He added” “This project would never have been completed successfully without them.” Bell also credited Clifton Park Town Supervisor Phil Barrett, who Bell said “was also very supportive.”
“At the end of the project, he asked me to present the work at a Town Board meeting, which was also a great experience,” said Bell.
Bell lives in Clifton Park with his parents, his younger sister Lauren, his pet turtle Fire and Lauren’s guinea pig, Anabelle. His parents both work in Albany for the state government. Chris Bell has lived in Clifton Park all his life. “When my parents married they decided to settle here because they felt it would be a great community to raise a family in. An added bonus is that we have a lot of relatives nearby,” he said.
The Scouts have been a major part of Bell’s life since first grade when he joined as a Tiger Cub.
Since joining all those years ago, Bell has traveled a lot of miles with Clifton Park’s Troop 45. Some of his scouting adventures include going to summer camp, deep sea fishing, camping and hiking in the Adirondacks and backpacking in New Mexico. Two summers ago, Bell said he and a crew of Scouts backpacked over 50 miles in the back country of New Mexico and summited the highest mountain in the Cimarron Range — an experience he described as “incredible.”
The newly minted Eagle Scout is waiting to hear back from the various colleges he’s applied to, including the University at Albany, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Siena, Clarkson, Le Moyne, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Bell is leaning toward WPI and RIT since they’re both known for their computer science programs. He hopes to find work in the technology field.
While he is still waiting to hear back from a few colleges, Bell said he’s received only acceptance letters so far. “I’m waiting for a couple more responses in March and then I’ll make the big decision on where to go,” he said.
When he’s not studying or working on scout-related projects, Bell enjoys working with his 3D printer and playing the violin in Shen’s Chamber Orchestra.
Questions for Chris Bell
Q: What’s your favorite band or musician?
A: I don’t have a favorite band in particular. I like most music genres (excluding country), but I’ve been listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar, G-Eazy, Lil’ Dicky, and Madeon recently.
Q: Do you have a favorite movie or book? Why?
A: Like with music, I don’t have a favorite book or movie specifically. However, I am a fan of most of Charles Dickens’ work, even though most of my peers would kill to avoid reading his books. I also enjoy books such as “The Great Gatsby.” Movie-wise, my favorites list includes “The King’s Speech,” “The Shawshank Redemption,” and “Spirited Away.” I’m not entirely sure why I like what I like, but I would point to the fascinating and unique characters presented in each.
Q: What are you most proud of?
A: I would have to say that I am most proud of achieving Eagle. Scouting has taken up a significant part of my life and it has given me a lot of great experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. Finally achieving Eagle was a great way to wrap up my Scouting career, and I really loved being able to do a project for my home community that combined my interests in nature and technology.
Q: What’s your biggest challenge?
A: Probably like a lot of teenagers, I would say my biggest problem is procrastination. I tend to delay things until the last possible minute, which is something I will have to overcome in college.
Q: Who or what has had the greatest influence on who you are today?
A: My parents, as well as Scouts, have had the greatest influence on me.
Q: Who’s your favorite teacher? What subject does he/she teach? Why are they your favorite?
A: Mrs. Werner was my favorite teacher. She teaches geometry and she was helpful and supportive throughout the year. Mrs. Werner kept things fun yet on task, and she managed to make math — not one of my favorite subjects — one of my favorite classes.
Q: If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
A: I would love to go to New Zealand. I’ve always wanted to go there, at first because I was interested in herpetology as a I grew up and wanted to see a tuatara — it looks like lizard but is a unique order of reptile, it has two rows of teeth, and has a hidden third eye — and now because I like New Zealand’s cool geography and the wild rugged “adventurous-ness” of many parts of the country.
Q: If you could meet anyone (a musician, actor, athlete, family member or historical figure) who would it be?
A: I would want to meet Henry Clay because he was an important figure in America’s history yet remains largely unknown to the general public. He helped settle many disputes between states and between countries, and his work helped delay the Civil War.