Pelican Scout’s ambitious service project to paint airport tower, earn Eagle badge nearly grounded by height restrictions

Taking a break from renovating the airstrip tower at Pelican Rapids city airport, from left, Sheldon Marty, Eagle Boy Scout candidate Zane Brosowske and his father Zac Brosowske.

It’s difficult to soar with the eagles–when you’re confined to four feet off the ground.

Working on some of his final requirements for the coveted Eagle Scout award, Zane Brosowke’s ambitious plan to paint a 55 foot airport tower was nearly “grounded” when his proposal collided with Boy Scouts of America policy.

The world has become a much more legalistic, litigious and lawyered-up place since Lord Baden Powell founded the Boy Scouts in 1910. Ready to roll on his Eagle Scout community service project–painting the airport beacon at the Pelican Rapids Municipal Airport–17-year-old Brosowske was informed of height restrictions.

The Lake Region Electric Cooperative boom truck was an asset in getting the community service project completed–one of the requirements for Eagle.

No Scout under the age of 18 can work higher than four feet above ground.

That was the word from the Boy Scouts of America, via an official with the Twin Cities metro air authority.

This sent Brosowske back to the drawing board.

Scraping and painting the first four feet was easy enough-…but how do your reach the remaining 51 feet? Fortunately, Pelican Troop 313 and Brosowske have valuable connections.

Topping the list: Lake Region Electric Cooperative, with a boom truck.

Combining the lift with Lake Region’s Sheldon Marty, a guy trained for trapeze-type highwire work as a lineman; plus a few other adult volunteers–Brosowske was able to get the job done in about 100 man hours. He also marked off another requirement on his Eagle checklist, which should be completed by November.

“A huge thank you to Lake Region Electric,” said Brosowske, a Pelican high school senior. “Without the lift, we’d probably still be painting out there.”

Actually, the painting was the easy part.

During the renovation and painting of the Pelican Rapids airport, from left, Zac Brosowske, Zane Brosowske and Sheldon Marty.
Eagle Scout candidate Zane Brosowske spearheaded the project in fulfilling his Eagle requirements. He hopes to complete the requirements by November.

Stripping, sanding and grinding off an ancient coat of paint and rust accumulations was the biggest job, said Brosowske.

“From the looks of it, the tower hadn’t been painted for a long–very long time,” said Brosowske, who learned that the tower was probably relocated to the Pelican air strip from Barnesville in the 1970s.

Brosowske also learned a bit about rural aviation history in the process. In the days before GPS and modern electronic mapping, the Federal Aviation Administration required installations of lighted beacons at intervals leading to airports, to aid pilots in navigating to rural airfields.

Brosowske lives near the airport, and frequent trips past the deteriorating tower put the idea in his head.

Then, he got word that the city had contacted local painter Len Thompson to coat the tower. Len thought it would be a great Eagle project, and volunteered equipment and specialized gear for the job. Quality paint, with an anticipated half-century life, was applied–in fully FAA-approved
orange and white.

“The approval process was quite a bit of work,” said Brosowske.

With the Eagle Scout candidate “earthbound” at no higher than four feet, Brosowske was fortunate to have plenty of help–including Lake Region’s Marty, who is fully certified for high work. His crew included his father Zac Brosowske, grandfather Patrick Martin, Charlie Nord, Marty and step-father Len Thompson.

Coordinating the crew is a key component of the Eagle community service requirement. “It’s not intended just to be a work project,” said Zane. “But also to develop leadership, and organizing a crew to help with the work.”

The height restriction for Scouts is somewhat ironic, especially in Zane’s case.

One of his favorite experiences at the Scout’s Camp Wilderness was the “high rope course” where he climbed on 40 foot high structures, repelled on ropes, and navigated a 450 foot zipline.

Brosowske anticipates an Eagle “Court of Honor” presentation of his Eagle some time in November.

At the Pelican schools, Brosowske has been active in football, wrestling, track, band, choir, theater and the SADD chapter. His future plans include attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth in Environmental Science.