When I met Daniel and Matthew Root early on a November Saturday morning to interview them for this piece, I was immediately impressed with their demeanor and attitude…these guys didn’t possess the usual “teenage” vibe I run across all the time. Instead, I found myself face-to-face with two young men who looked me in the eye, answered my questions directly without attitude and genuinely seemed to care deeply about doing good things in their community. By the end our time together, which included an on-site visit to Rich Gulch in the Jacksonville Woodlands, I had a renewed faith in our younger residents!
Daniel and Matthew Root turn 18 in early December—they are twin brothers, both of whom are headed to college next fall. Both are seniors at South High and have been accepted to Montana State but are also hopeful of being accepted at Cal Poly Institute, where they want to major in engineering. The twins are the sons of Tim and Anne Root, residents of Jacksonville and the owners of Eden Vale Winery and the Voorhies Mansion off South Stage Road. Although one might expect children of well-to-do-parents in this day and age to relax and take it easier than some of their peers, Daniel and Matthew are motivated, energetic, resourceful, and respectful young men who just completed two improvement projects for the Jacksonville Woodlands trail system as part of their Eagle Scout program.
The French Gulch Mine Interpretive Trail is located in the Jacksonville Woodlands Rich Gulch historic mining district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The construction of the trail, installation of the historic mining displays and panels, and other projects were all undertaken as Eagle Scout projects beginning in 2008. The area is said to contain more Eagle Scout projects per acre than anywhere else in the region, perhaps the nation. In 2008, Eagle Scout Christian Mundell built the exit portion of the French Gulch Trail. Scout Caleb Rayburn followed by building a replica of the original Petard sluice box. Scout Noah Simdorn then constructed an historic replica of the Petard family’s mining water cannon, used to forcefully blast away hillsides to dislodge gold from rock, dirt and mud. Following the completion of these three projects, Scout Mason Sash completed a set of steep connecting trail steps from Rich Gulch down into French Gulch. Those who have hiked this portion of the Woodlands trail system know the topography is steep in places and can pose challenges to even the most skilled hiker…challenges now reduced thanks to the work of these fine local Eagle Scouts and their family members!
Although the Root twins were busy planning their projects well-before breaking ground in early October, 2014, the Root brothers have now since completed both. Each assisted the other with their project and received additional help from over fifteen members of their thirty-member Boy Scout Troop 17. Much of the work involved back-breaking labor including the transport of fencing material to the work site, as well as manually hauling railroad ties from a trailer to the work site.
Daniel’s project involved the construction of a 250 foot-long split rail fence that protects the former historic mining dam from degradation by bikes and pedestrians. Matthew’s project involved building a complex retaining wall made from railroad ties to support a steep hillside to keep it from sliding down over the set of stairs built earlier by Scout Mason Sash. As mentioned, both projects required advance planning work, including working with city officials like Richard Shields and members of the Jacksonville Woodlands Association’s Larry Smith and Bob Budesa.
When asked about “real life lessons” learned on-the-job, Daniel admitted that he and his brother were a bit surprised at times by the slow pace of the city bureaucracy. Other important life lessons learned involved how to start a conversation with others, how to interact with and lead others, and the importance of speaking directly with and interacting with people in the community. The intricacies of successful fundraising were another lesson learned, as well. All of these real life lessons certainly help explain why my initial impression of both young men was so positive.
Although both deserve praise and credit, Daniel and Matthew were quick to point-out that their Eagle Scout projects were made possible thanks to the generosity and guidance of others, including their parents and their Scout leader, Dave Rayburn. Together, the two projects cost more than $2600, funded in-part by a donation of split rail fencing and a cash donation to purchase railroad ties by Jacksonville resident Mike Burrill, Jr. Additional financial donations were provided by Jacksonville’s Mel Ashland of Bigham Knoll, Matt Patten of Cutler Investments, Dentist Rex Miller and members of the Jacksonville/Applegate Rotary Club.
One of the easiest ways to reach the Historic French Gulch Mine Interpretive Trail is from the Rich Gulch trail head just above the Britt Pavilion off Fir Street. You’ll find more remarkable stories and more information on the Jacksonville Woodlands Association online at www.jvwoodlands.org.