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Forging Trails, New and Old - A Gold Girl Story


Maggie Clark of Knoxville is one of 29 2021 Gold Award 
recipients from the Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians. Maggie walked us through all she learned while managing her project and how it ties to her current life as a college student. 

Since 1916, thousands of Girl Scouts across the country have earned the Girl Scouts’ highest honor, now called the Girl Scout Gold Award, for demonstrating extraordinary leadership and making sustainable change in their communities. Nationally, only 6 percent of all eligible Girl Scouts achieve the Gold Award.

“I love hiking and being outdoors,” Maggie shared. “Ijams Nature Center holds several events that help connect the community with nature, so I wanted to give something back as a thank you.”

She walked the Discovery Trail at Ijams Nature Center and noticed that the trail had become severely eroded. Ijams Nature Center, a non-profit organization in South Knoxville, encourages stewardship of the natural world by providing an urban green space for people to learn about and enjoy the outdoors through engaging experiences.

As a member of troop 21033 with a desire to complete a Gold Award project, Maggie went to work planning upgrades that would improve trail safety, help prevent erosion from rain and foot traffic, and make it more accessible, opening opportunities for more people to enjoy nature. 

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Adding new mulch to resurface the trail.

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Distributing the mulch to get a good coverage of the entire trail.

Managing the logistics to get enough people, supplies, and equipment on-site at the right time to execute the project became her biggest challenge, but she shared a bright spot: “I had to keep pushing my project date back, but it helped ease my anxiety about calling and emailing people – I learned to not be afraid to communicate!”

In addition to the trail maintenance, Maggie had plaques made that detail the reasons for the updates and how they impact the trail.

Facing all the obstacles was ultimately worth it. “Seeing the end result – the transformation of the trail – was my favorite part. It gave me such a feeling of accomplishment,” she said.

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Removing an invasive plant that grows around the trail.

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Anchoring down the bars.

Maggie continues to live a life focused on conservation. She has enrolled at the University of Tennessee and is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology with the desire to be a wildlife biologist focusing on conservation.

She loves being outdoors, “anything from just sitting in the grass to swimming in the ocean.” She even got certified in self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (SCUBA) in her last summer of Girl Scout camp and can hold her breath for 70 seconds – things that would certainly come in handy in the ocean. Maggie also loves spending time with her two dogs, noting “they always destress me after a long day.” 

Congratulations to Maggie and all of our Gold Award recipients!

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Maggie's team of wonderful volunteers!