Scout's picnic table bridge to his future

Several hundred miles from home, a young Niskayuna man is making his way through college as he hits the books at SUNY/Stony Brook working toward a mechanical engineering degree that could open a lot of doors for his future. But as he prepares for midterm exams and deals with a campus life that includes dormitories that aren't quite the same as his room back home, Ben Hayashi credits his time in a local Scout troop with teaching him valuable lessons in leadership.

Those lessons were capped off last year when Hayashi decided to build something in his hometown that is still a magnet for local residents today. The construction of the giant octagonal picnic table and benches built under the town gazebo started out simple enough, but by the time it was done, the Niskayuna teen learned lessons about life that he expects to carry with him forever.

The project earned Hayashi his Eagle Scout Award earlier this year.

I was looking for a service project, something to build that would help the town and give me an opportunity to lead a group of people, Hayashi said. "I knew that the gazebo on the lawn by town hall wasn't getting a lot of use, so I decided that we could do something about that. Then I had to come up with a design that would accommodate a fairly large number of people and recruit individuals who could help with the actual construction.

"I learned a lot about organizing things and working with people, especially leadership skills and bringing people together," Hayashi said. "I also gained a lot of knowledge about coping with different environments and staying focused."

And even now, more than a year since it was completed last September, the heavy-duty woodwork undertaken by Hayashi and a crew of seven local people including his father, Steve, the Scoutmaster of Niskayuna's Troop 34, is being used by those catching a peep at the fall leaves as the season changes. The table, which was designed to separate into two sections, also proved handy during the summer as a place for town band members to set their instruments during summer concert performances. It's even turned out to be a good place for local youths to grab a break after a hard game of soccer on the large lawn in front of town hall, according to Hayashi.

"Technically, it is supposed to seat about 18 with a little more than two people on each side, but it's a lot bigger than that," Hayashi said. "You can probably fit about 21 or 22 people around it without a problem. And we treated the wood twice, so it should hold up pretty well against the elements." ""

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