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Sign Replacement Effort May Net Eagle Honor
Finishing his Eagle Scout project just in time - the day before he turned 18 - Escalon's Aaron Hughes is now waiting for word on whether he will receive the coveted designation.

All the paperwork has been filed and all the requirements believed to have been met for Hughes to receive his Eagle Scout honor, with his work leading to beautification of the downtown Escalon area and replacement of an historic sign.

The 'Escalon' Santa Fe railway station sign by the caboose situated adjacent to the Main Street Park was becoming dilapidated and weathered, so part of Hughes' project was to replicate that sign and put up one that could withstand the elements.

Escalon Historical Society member Barb Willis said Hughes contacted the city at first to see if there was a project he could do and City Engineer John Abrew got in touch with her to see if a sign project might work.

"It was in bad shape and Park Fete was fast approaching," Willis said of the project coming at the right time. "It was decided that the condition (of the sign) could not be improved so a duplicate was going to be made."

Willis said Hughes and some family members measured the sign, obtained templates for the existing letters and emblems on the Santa Fe sign, and made a new one in the same size and scale as the original.

"I've been in scouting since I was five years old," Hughes, a 2011 Escalon High School graduate, said. "My dad's been doing scouting since he was a little boy and I have two uncles, they were the first (in the family) to get their Eagles."

Starting out as a Tiger cub, Hughes stayed with scouting through the years and currently belongs to Troop 14 in Stockton, part of the Big Valley scouting district. His first proposed project for Eagle consideration did not draw a response from the scouting committee, he said, so he was advised to find another and the city sign project fit the bill.

While originally thinking he would just refurbish the existing sign, Hughes said the project took on a little more depth when it was discovered he had to replace it instead.

"I measured everything twice," he said of taking care to get all the dimensions correct. "Even down to the thickness of the board."

Lettering on the sign was done by the local I'll Say Anything business, and Hughes said over 80 man hours went into the project.

"It feels good, a real feeling of accomplishment," he said of getting the work done and coordinating both scouts and volunteers in the effort.

"We had about five scouts work on it and three adults," he added.

With the city's Park Fete approaching, Hughes and his team of volunteers also took on the refurbishing of the downtown planter boxes on Main Street, cleaning them up and adding a variety of colorful plants. He coordinated with Escalon City Council member Robert Swift, of Swift Lawn and Garden, for that part of the project.

"He worked hard, his crew worked hard," Swift said. "They got it done."

Some 300 plants were put in along the Main Street corridor, Hughes estimated.

"We finished one day before July 1, which was my birthday," he said.

Eagle Scout projects have to be completed before the scout turns 18 and Hughes said he was relieved to have it all done on time. Now he is just waiting for confirmation that he will receive the Eagle honor.

"Only two percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle," he explained.

Still to come is a plaque to be placed on the back of the new sign, Hughes and Willis noted.

"A plaque on the back will list the history of the original sign ownership and facts about the making of the duplicate," Willis explained.

Hughes is the son of Dennis Hughes and Linda Clemson. He has an older brother, James, who is also an Eagle Scout, earning that for a birdhouse-building project in Knights Ferry.

Hughes said he enjoys many aspects of scouting, particularly the chance to meet new people and be involved in outdoor activities, including attending Scout Camp. He intends to stay involved in scouting as a leader and is looking forward to attending Modesto Junior College this fall, where he will start his college studies and play golf for the MJC Pirates.

He has a total of 26 merit badges earned through scouting, with a number of those required prior to applying for Eagle.

"The hardest one for me to get was Citizenship in the Nation," he explained. "It had to do a lot with government and politics, but I got it done."