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Two Girl Scouts clear the way for nature walks in Malta park

One wouldn't imagine that telling a whole town to take a hike would be considered community service, but for two Ballston Spa Girl Scouts, a yearlong project has culminated in just that.

Olivia Iannon and Alex Finocchio, both 17, are putting the finishing touches on their Girl Scout Gold Award project: two nature trails winding through the woods behind the Malta Community Park, located on Plains Road.

The girls started the project about a year ago after installing informational signage along the existing walking trail behind the park for another project. That experience, along with a trip to the Teton Mountain area in Wyoming, got them thinking about the possibility of developing the area further.

With the help of the town's Parks and Recreation Department, they identified the best paths and, last month, organized a volunteer labor force consisting of service club members from school, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and friends and family who cleared the trails over two weekends. The workers employed chainsaws and even scythes to widen the path through the woods.

Though the town has benefited from the efforts of Boy Scout Eagle Scout projects before, it's the first time a Gold Award project has been conducted on parkland, said Director of Parks, Recreation and Human Services Audrey Ball.

They did a wonderful job. It's just amazing, said Ball. "We're lucky to benefit from those projects."

The trails provide a more primitive experience than the already existing nature trail, which is wide and mulched. The scouts' two trails instead dive into the foliage. They are not prohibitively difficult, but there are no niceties like mulch or benches. One gets a lot closer to nature.

"You actually get to see the inside of the park," said Finocchio.

There are two nature trails that connect points on the town's existing nature trail, which is shaped like a horseshoe. They're marked with orange and yellow plastic bottle caps nailed to trees. The orange trail is a bit more difficult than the yellow one, but the two intersect at points so people don't need to wander far to change paths.

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