A memorial trail alongside Scituate's Christ Lutheran Church, built in memory of a fallen National Guardsman and Scituate resident, will be rededicated on Saturday after the family of the soldier lengthened and renovated the walkway.
Initially, the trail, built by Scituate resident and church member Jason Foote as part of an Eagle Scout project in 2005, was a short path into the woods that ended abruptly before walkers had to turn back around the way they came.
On Saturday, the lengthened trail that loops through the woods and back out another side will be unveiled, along with a dedication in memory of Sergeant Michael Kelley, a 26-year-old Army National Guardsman who was killed in Afghanistan in 2005.
Members of the Kelley family used the original trail, but father Joe Kelley said he felt the pathway needed more.
“I felt that we would use it for a while, as far as [what] the Eagle Scout brought it to, and we did that, but I didn’t like having it end in the middle of the woods and having to turn around the way you came,” said Kelley. “It didn’t have a beginning and ending. It just stopped, so I needed to complete it.”
The trail was lengthened and connected to another opening near the church, with benches placed at the midway point and markers put at the entrance and exit.
“Everybody volunteered to lend a hand. The only real challenge we had was what we were going to use for ground cover,” Kelley said. “We didn’t want to disturb the area and environment, so the walking trail area is woodchips. It’s full of woodchips, so it’s easy to walk on, [and] it’s really wide. There is a sitting area halfway through the trails, a couple of benches there, one of them engraved for Michael.”
The inscribed bench was donated by the Richardson Gaffey Funeral Home, which handled Michael’s wake.
Kelley said he was grateful to the funeral home for making good on its offer made seven years prior to donate a bench.
“Three to four months ago I called them and asked if it was still on the table, and they said, ‘Absolutely,’ and they had it done,” the father said.
In addition to the bench, signs were constructed by David Hassan of Hassan Sign in Cohasset, the same maker of the signs placed at a memorial for Kelley at the North River Bridge on Route 3A.
The signs and benches help complete the quarter-mile sanctuary in the woods, one that provides peace and reflection, Kelley said. It’s a trail where one can breathe, think, or just observe.
“We belong to that church, our family, and before [service] I’ll get there early, walk through the trail, grab some solace and peace,” he said. “I’m happy that it’s done.”
The trail was lengthened without any major trees being cut down, and the layout was constructed with help from Kelley’s son-in-law, a landscaper.
“Basically it’s a low maintenance trail. Maybe once a year we’ll go in and do some weed-whacking, pick up branches that fell. It doesn’t require a lot of maintenance, but it's very peaceful, and that’s what we wanted, and we’ve appropriately named it the Freedom Trail,” Kelley said.
Not only will the memorial walk mean a lot to the Kelley family, but members of the church said the trail and dedication will help them remember Michael as well.
“For the church itself, [Michael’s death] … really connected us to the reality of current events, and served as a focal point for the church to come together. It wasn’t a positive thing, but it created a sense of focus and purpose for the church,” said Michael McWilliams, a spokesman for the church. “That sense of focus has largely remained.”
State Representative Jim Cantwell, the honor guard from the Scituate American Legion Post, the church's pastor, church members, and the Kelley family are all scheduled to attend the dedication of the Sgt. Michael Jason Kelley Freedom Trail on Sept. 15 at 9 a.m.
Members of the public are welcome to attend.