Scout improves Smith Creek Recreation Area with Eagle project near Utica

By Chrystal Houston

UTICA — Boy Scout Jayden Butzke has enjoyed camping, fishing, sledding, and kayaking at Smith Creek Recreation Area near Utica for years, but on one recent visit, he realized something was missing from the park: a place to sit.

Other than pulling up a patch of grass or bringing a lawn chair, the only seating was at picnic tables. Butzke thought benches around the trail at the lake’s edge would be a great enhancement for the facility. He began fundraising and planning in the summer of 2022, then built four benches in the summer of 2023 and installed them at Smith Creek in September, with the help of Utica Scout Troup 180.

This act of service will help him achieve the highest rank attainable in scouting, Eagle Scout, which he hopes to be awarded in 2024 after completing his remaining merit badge requirements.

Butzke has been part of the Boy Scouts of America since 2020. He says he appreciates the group and the Eagle Scout project requirement as, “It pushes you to be a better person and to learn responsibility.”

Other scouts who were involved with the installation of the benches included Elden Butzke, Devon Slawnyk, Matthew Hoops, Levi Jorgensen, Paul Dale, Nick Grantski, and Tyler Toovey. Butzke recognized he could not have accomplished this project on his own. “Thanks to my parents, for pushing me to get this completed,” he said. “Thanks also to all the local businesses that contributed materials for my project,” such as Hughes Brothers, Volzke’s, Beaver Hardware, and Interstate Welding.

Butzke estimates that with materials and labor costs, the total value of his project was about $3,500.

Butzke lives in Beaver Crossing with his parents Chris and Robin Butzke and is a junior at Centennial Public Schools. In addition to Scouting, he is involved in football, baseball, track, choir, show choir, and one-act. His long-term plans include pursuing a degree from Southeast Community College and a career as a welder, hopefully in Nebraska.

“The Upper Big Blue NRD is grateful to Jayden as well as his family and scout troop for improving our recreation area,” said General Manager David Eigenberg. “Smith Creek sees a lot of activity, especially in the summer months. Many people will benefit from Jayden’s act of community service as they enjoy our recreation area.”

For more information about facilities and amenities at Smith Creek Recreation Area, as well as other NRD properties, visit


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