GUILFORD >> After a year of fundraising, planning and physical labor the Grass Island shack is once again level, with a new coat of red paint and new roof tiles.
The landmark that has been the go-to spot over the years for partying, picnicking, prom proposals, pictures and paintings has been restored and is once again structurally sound.
With nearly equal parsimony, under the auspices of the Parks and Recreation Department, the town has made small repairs over the years, including replacing boards and roof shingles. Yet there was no money in the budget to undertake the type of restoration project that was essential to save the crumbling shack.
As part of his endeavor to earn his Eagle Scout ranking, John Markowski, a Life Scout from Boy Scouts of America Troop 471, stepped forward last November to lead the renovation.
“Growing up here, it was just always there,” says Markowski. “I never really understood how big and how important of a landmark it was until I really got involved with the project and started all this and then people were coming forward with their stories and pictures.”
An original summer cottage constructed on the west shore of the island in 1914 by local druggist J. Harrison Monroe was destroyed by fire around 1936. The current structure was built around 1940 and moved to its current location in 1950.
The town purchased the building, plus 7 acres of Grass Island land, for $15,000 in September 1965 from Bradford Monroe.
Markowski raised over $28,000, including matching funds, up to $10,000, from the Guilford Foundation. Any monies not used for the renovation will be invested in the Save the Shack/Grass Island Fund to support maintenance and repairs in perpetuity.
Seven work parties, each drawing about 30 volunteers, donations from local businesses and civic organizations and a multitude of local fundraisers helped get the job done. A complete list can be found at www.savetheshackguilford.com.
“There were people coming from all over, not just people that lived in Guilford, that wanted to volunteer and get involved,” says Markowski. “They heard about it, whether it was online on social media or a friend or family member, and they knew what it was and remembered it from when they lived in Guilford and they wanted to get involved.”
Oliver Bishop III, Markowski’s Eagle Scout advisor, praised the scout on the Simply Guiford, CT Facebook page.
“John its has been a pleasure working on this this project with you and I know that I picked the right Scout for this project right from the start. John you have shown unbelievable leadership and brought many people together to make this happen. In over 30 years in scouting this is hands down the largest Eagle Scout project I have had the pleasure to be the Advisor on. You have made the community, scouts, and me very proud of you. “
Markowski is also proud of what has been accomplished over the last year.
“It’s amazing,” he says. “In the beginning it seemed so far off and it came together so quick. I’m kind of relieved it’s done with now, it was starting to get a little iffy with the weather.”