Scout project provides chess at Prairie park

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By Steve Van Kooten


If you walk through Prairie du Chien’s downtown district toward St. Feriole Island, you might notice Lucky Park off to the right, just before the bridge that takes the Blackhawk Avenue traffic to the island. It’s one of many recreation spots dotted throughout Prairie, and for many, there isn’t much that distinguishes it from other parks in the area.

But now, Lucky Park has something no other place in Prairie has: a public chess table. It’s a slick piece of work, with sheet-metal sides, a composite table top and storage space underneath for the chess pieces.

Kevin Stout completed the table as a service project, a requirement to attain the rank of eagle scout. “I like chess, and part of the Eagle Project is finding something that connects to you,” wrote Stout. “I was stuck on what I wanted to do as a project for my Eagle Scout rank. I was originally considering the idea of a gaga ball pit, a playground game similar to Foursquare, but when we came upon the idea of a chess table, I really liked it.”

The table cost more than $2,000, with the George Family Foundation providing funding for the project, and Deckorators contributed composite material to make the table top, where the chess boards are ingrained.

According to Scout Master Mike Mara, Wolf Machine built the metal frame. Mara said many people volunteered their time and resources to make Stout’s vision a reality.

The project had to provide a lasting benefit to the scout’s community. Mike Wallace, the City of Prairie du Chien’s parks, recreation and forestry director, said Stout and Mara contacted him before the project finished, and they decided to place the table at Lucky Park.

Wallace said, “Kevin’s project will provide something that many people may not have had before. Having a chess table to play [with] outside is not something we’ve been able to offer before.”

Wallace also wrote that service projects encourage people to utilize recreation spots in the community and increase park usage.

While the chess table will remain in Prairie du Chien, emblematic of Stout’s love of chess and his duty to his community, Stout will move on to the next phase of his scouting career: the Eagle Scout Court of Honor, which will take place on Thursday, June 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Barn in LaRiviere Park.

“Completing this project is the biggest piece of earning the final rank in scouting,” wrote Stout.

The Scouts provide an opportunity for kids to gain experience, learn new skills and connect with others their own age. Stout the Scout started when he was in second grade.

“I first met people that would become my best friends throughout high school there, and as I got to know them better in the years following, we had a lot of fun together in the organization,” wrote Stout.

On his journey to becoming an eagle scout, Stout said his project gave him a chance to learn and practice new skills.“I learned a lot of managerial and leadership skills. I had to make calls, make plans, and meet with different people. It helped to make me more comfortable with those kinds of things.”

Mara added that Scouts provides a practical component to the kids’ life-skills education.

“Pick up a hammer. That’s the only way to learn how to drive a nail. You have to do it.”

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