August 4, 2008

Ex-Girl Scouts Reunite in Forest: Women Go Back to Park Where They Planted Trees

By Jim Carney, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Aug. 4--CUYAHOGA FALLS: The 1,000 Girl Scouts are long grown now, scattered into lives as wives and mothers, educators and businesswomen.

The tiny seedlings they tucked into the dark earth at Hampton Hills Metro Park 40 years ago are grown, too -- a woods of pine trees stretching 60 feet skyward.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, several of the women who planted the trees so long ago took a walk into the past.

They hiked a trail a half-mile north and then west through the Top O' the World section of Hampton Hills on West Bath Road. They stood in awe of what nature had done over the years.

It was April 1968 when the Girl Scouts planted 5,000 seedlings at Top O' the World -- 2,000 white oaks, 1,000 black walnuts, 1,000 green ash trees and 1,000 white pines.

Today the pines, which hikers pass on the Adam Run Trail, are marked by a wooden sign that says the forest was planted by Girl Scouts in 1968.

The women shared fond memories of the planting day and of their time as Girl Scouts.

"I learned about being patriotic and learned how to respect the U.S. flag," said Lori Boles-Harper, 50, of Akron, who brought along her mother, Kathryn Boles, 73, who had been a co-leader of her troop. "Another valuable lesson I learned was to always leave a place better than you found it."

Jane Mariani-Walker, now 50 and an Akron mother of six, said her time in Girl Scouts was valuable. Scouting encouraged "self-reliance, which contributed to self-confidence," she said.

Seeing the towering pines reminded Alice Maher-Luse of the importance of nature conservancy. Maher-Luse, 49, is now the executive director of the American Heart Association of Akron.

"It was fun," she said of the nostalgic trip to the woods with old friends. "It was a good feeling of what an impact something so long ago could have on today."

One former Girl Scout, Debbe Tuhela-Long, 50, who lives in Akron and works as a licensed loan officer in Streetsboro, described the walk to the woods as "reconnecting with the past."

It was a good feeling, she said, "to realize that you had been there before, and it is kind of looking at time in a sense and being able to see something you had a part in and helped create. . . .

"As time goes, on you realize what an important part that Girl Scouts played in your life."

Anne Najeway-Vainer, 50, the director of student services for Barberton Schools, took some of her Girl Scout memorabilia into the woods to show her old friends from Troops 263 and 197. She also brought along a box of Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies.

After hiking into the woods and back, she and her friends shared the cookies and talked about their days as Girl Scouts.

Najeway-Vainer said it was incredible to think of how big an impact such a small act, like planting a seedling, has on the landscape four decades later.

Not only have the trees grown older, she said, but so have the women who planted them.

"At one point, when you are little, 40 or 50 is old," she said. "Now that we are there, 40 and 50 isn't that old."

For more information on Hampton Hills and Top O' the World park, go to

Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or [email protected]


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