Aspiring Eagle Scout Tommy Martin visits the new Burlington park at 256 State St., Burlington, that will bear his family’s name – Martin’s Square – on Tuesday. Last year Martin proposed his assistance in developing the park as his Eagle Scout project and the idea took off with assistance from Mayor Jeannie Hefty and several local contractors. (Photo by Ed Nadolski)

It’s named Martin’s Square in his family’s honor

By Ed Nadolski

Editor in Chief

Aspiring Eagle Scout Tommy Martin admits he’s a bit overwhelmed by the thought that his seemingly simple suggestion rallied a community and created a showcase park for the city.

When he first approached Mayor Jeannie Hefty with his idea nearly a year ago, Martin figured he could dress up what he considered an eyesore parcel of land at 256 State Street with a relatively modest Eagle Scout project.

What the community got instead was an impressive gateway to the city’s downtown thanks to a determined push from the mayor and the generosity of local contractors and organizations.

“It’s so touching how the community came together,” Martin, 15, a sophomore at Burlington High School, said. “I can’t even express how grateful I am.”

On Saturday, Martin and 40 other scouts from Troop 336 in Burlington installed sod at the park – dubbed Martin’s Square. It came after approximately three weeks of construction that created paver walkways, a large central planter and rows of trees.

Martin had the honor of planting the gardens around each of the two signs that welcome people to Historic Downtown Burlington.

For his part, Martin raised about $6,000 – double the amount required for an Eagle Scout project – put in about 100 hours of work and, most importantly, according to Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty, provided the inspiration for the entire project.

Both Martin and Hefty said the nearly finished park has exceeded their expectations.

“When you see this its, ‘Oh, my God,’” Hefty said. “It really hit me when I saw it at night.”

All that remains now is for the installation of decorative park benches, a bike rack and a trash receptacle.

“It’s going to be stunning,” Hefty said. “I’m proud of this community. There’s no limit to how we rise to things.”


A simple suggestion

By now many are familiar with Martin’s story.

The former gas station property, adjacent to B.J. Wentker’s restaurant, had been vacant for more than a year after the owner abandoned the station and left behind a delinquent property tax bill. The city acquired the property in July 2015 and demolished the building. After initially seeking proposals from developers for the site, the City Council later decided to turn the parcel into green space.

Since then, however, the property sat vacant and was considered by most to be an eyesore.

Martin contacted Hefty in the fall of 2016 proposing his help in converting the property into a park as part of his Eagle Scout project. However, the proposal came to a standstill when Martin’s father, a local attorney, died of ALS in late 2016.

The death caused Martin to temporarily step away from the project and left Hefty concerned about Martin and the future of his proposal.

But things got back on track this spring when Martin, at Hefty’s urging, pitched his proposal to the city’s Plan Commission in May.

“This entire lot for an Eagle (Scout) project would have been way too big,” Martin said.


A push from the mayor

That’s where Hefty came in.

“She completely took me under her wing,” Martin said.

She introduced Martin to Scott Erickson of Rustic Road Landscaping and he came up with a design.

“He was a terrific help,” Martin said.

Hefty and Erickson contacted other area contractors and many came through with donations or discounts on materials, expertise or labor.

In addition to donating his design expertise, Erickson provided many of the trees for the project at a discounted price.

Among the other benefactors were Unilock, which donated the pavers for the walkways and bricks for the planter, Jasperson sod, Burli Signs, the Burlington Garden Club, which donated the tree for the planter, and Burlington Garden Center, which provided plants and flowers.

Hefty said Erickson has estimated the value of the park improvements at $200,000, yet the city was able to accomplish that for about $50,000 – some of which still needs to be raised.

For his part, Martin said he’s humbled by the outpouring of support from the community and the decision to name the park in honor of his family.

Martin said he could only surmise that his father – an Eagle Scout himself – would be proud.