On Saturday members of the community including Representative Sean Scanlon and First Selectman Joseph Mazza, came together for a small ceremony to recognize Eagle Scout John Markowski for his “Save The Shack” project.
Grass Island and the small red shack that sits upon it, may be one of Guilford’s most recognizable landmarks. The shack has withstood harsh winters and tropical storms since around 1915 and yet somehow it has remained standing throughout the years.
Around 18 years ago Guilford residents Carole and Richard Werle decided to begin the process of restoring the dilapidated building. Richard named his project “Save Our Shack.” With help from the community the Werles were able to allocate the funds needed to repair the shack. Sadly, Richard Werle passed away during the time when he was giving the shack its second set of repairs. Since Richard’s passing the Shack became more run down; there came a point around two years ago when it was deemed unsafe by Town officials and fenced off to stop the public from accessing it.
John Markowski decided to take restoring and saving the shack into his own hands back in 2015, a pretty big undertaking given that the shack needed major repairs. Initially, when Markowski brought the proposal to Troop 471 the committee believed it to be quite a large project for one scout to take on. Scout Master Bishop never seemed to have any doubt that Markowski would be able to save the shack.
“I’ve been a Scout Master for over 30 plus years, and over those 30 years I have had 30 plus boys attain the rank of Eagle Scout,” he explained. “An average Eagle Scout project is 100 hours, this project was over 2,000 hours. Between running a boy scout troop and organizing an Eagle Scout project to this magnitude, this kid has done an incredible job. He has a legacy now. I am super proud of John, he is truly one of my Eagle Scouts, I will always be his Scout Master and I will always be his friend.”
In September of 2015 Markowski and his father met with First Selectman Joe Mazza as well as the Director of Parks and Recreations Richard Maynard, John presented them with the plans for the new shack.
“I have been to many many Eagle Scout Courts of Honor and these young men do quite a number of tremendous projects, but this one I could not believe,” said Mazza.
As a part of the Eagle Scout project John not only had to come up with the plan, he also had to raise the funds. He started a GoFundMe page and fundraised throughout the area, and the Guilford Foundation matched John for every dollar he came up with eventually raising nearly $28,000.
“We began the fundraising during the winter months and then when it warmed up in the summer of 2016 we began the rebuild. It came together very smoothly, and very quick thanks to all the help,” said Markowski.
With around 50 volunteers and 2,457 hours of service the shack was completed in November of 2016 and re-opened to the public.
John was presented an official citation by Representative Scanlon, recognizing his efforts from the State of Connecticut as well as a plaque of appreciation from the Town of Guilford and First Selectman Mazza for his outstanding accomplishment.