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Tuesday, August 21 News

Scouts plant trees in memory of Bill Rundall

Five Cub Scouts and their families and DEEP forester David Irvin recently teamed up to plant four trees in memory of Bill Rundall of Kent.

The native sugar maple and red oaks were planted at Camp Columbia State Historic Park in Morris.

The four saplings from Planter’s Choice nursery in Watertown were provided by Cub Scout Pack 52 of Oakville.

They were part of a memorial plan to honor Rundall, a DEEP State Parks employee who died in 2013.

Rundall once helped maintain Camp Columbia and spent a lot of work hours on the property.

“Not pleasant conditions for humans, but excellent tree planting weather,” Irvin said of the rain to the 9- and 10-year-old boys in attendance.

Camp Columbia is one of the newest acquisitions by the state of Connecticut to add to the diverse list of state parks and forests that is scattered across the landscape.

Columbia was acquired approximately 17 years ago from Columbia University, which once maintained a field campus on the premises for engineering and surveying students.

The property is 599 acres, with the great majority designated as state forest, which is actively managed for growing a healthy and diverse forest and wildlife habitat.

The portion that once supported over two dozen buildings (most demolished) has a special designation as a state historic park.

Rundall was a state parks maintainer in the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in DEEP. He had more than 22 years of state service as a seasonal and permanent employee when he died at age 40.

He primarily worked out of the Lake Waramaug maintenance headquarters that was responsible for a number of popular state properties, including Mt. Tom and Camp Columbia.

At Columbia, he seemed to take particular personal pride in his work, which was mostly done alone.

Early in DEEP ownership, he spearheaded the hiking trails for the property, taking the series of random paths and old forest access roadbeds and turning them into blazed loop trails that would avoid some of the more sensitive areas of the property.

Rundall even took a photo of the iconic stone observation tower on the property that served as part of a final exam for a degree in park management.

This photo is framed and hangs on the wall of the DEEP Western District Headquarters offices in Harwinton.

Irvin, who works in the State Lands Management Program of the Forestry Division, said he felt for years that something was missing regarding Rundall’s passing at such a young age.

The tree planting seemed most appropriate, as something completely natural and part of the environment at Columbia, rather than any form of development or artificial additions to the surroundings.

As Rundall was an Eagle Scout in his hometown of Kent, and had included a tree planting as part of his Eagle project, it seemed that nothing could be more suiting.

“Bill would’ve liked this,” Irvin said. “This was him. This is for his memory and for his family left behind.”

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Local Boy Scouts replenish the site of Rundall’s Eagle Scout project in Kent with daffodil bulbs every year.

“He was extremely proud of his work with the agency, and most importantly, he believed in it,” Irvin said. “He exemplified why there are so many dedicated professionals for outdoor recreation and natural resources in DEEP like I believe you rarely see in other fields.”

“He had a personal passion and belief in the work,” he said. “He had an unwavering work ethic and positive attitude. I never saw a complaint.”

Interestingly, Irvin encountered Rundall on workdays more often on forest fires than on routine days of maintenance in the parks and forests.

“Whenever our agency was called to assist with brush fires, there Bill would be,” he said. He was a fixture on fires. And no matter how hectic or challenging, I think he never stopped smiling. He even insisted on continuing to come in to do his work while his illness worsened and made his daily life more challenging.”

“To meet Bill, he was an impressively big man but was almost soft-spoken and shy in demeanor. His unassuming manner was deceptive, because he was also very observant, aware, confident, and competent at many things. And most of all, a kind and sincere person. I never ever remember a single unkind thing out of his mouth about anybody or anything. He deserves to be honored and to be remembered for his contributions to our agency and state.”

At the conclusion of the planting, Rundall’s parents were presented with an engraved plaque commemorating the occasion.

A certificate, with the DEEP and Scout logos, to honor Rundall now hangs in the DEEP office wall.

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