The iconic ‘R’ at high school gets a facelift

“Erect a landscaped hill containing the “R” for Riverview Community High School.”  

This is how the Project Description started for the Eagle Project of Paul Swift 20 years ago on June 10.

The Eagle Project required the approval of the Scoutmaster, Steven Washburn, the Riverview Community High School Principal Charlie Pike, and the City of Riverview.

Once Paul had approval from the three parties he began his fundraising campaign. He solicited donations from friends, family, parent clubs, civic groups, local businesses and school administration. In the end almost $1,500 was raised.

Once funding was secured the procurement of materials and construction planning sessions began. At this point it was pretty clear several entities and organizations had to work closely together to make this project happen.

The first step in construction was the assembling of the massive “R.” The Riverview symbol was constructed of 25 eight foot 2x4s, 26 “L” brackets, 254 lag bolts, 300 washers, and one gallon of special “Maroon” paint.  

The “R” stands twelve feet tall and 13 feet wide.

As the “R” was being built the berm was being laid out by employees of the school district. Using a front end loader the berm was groomed into the shape it is today.  Due to a miscalculation of the amount of dirt required, additional dirt was donated from the Riverview Land Preserve.  

The berm contains a couple hundred yards of fill dirt and 50 yards of topsoil. It stands 6 feet tall, 56 feet wide and 30 feet from front to back.

Swift’s Eagle Project itself took place on Saturday, June 10, 2000.

The “R” was delivered from Swift’s house to the corner of Quarry and Longsdorf by Ron Miller Towing on his flatbed tow truck. With about a dozen Boy Scouts from Riverview Troop 1659 and their parents the iconic “R” berm was completed in about 6 hours.

Fast forward to June 2020 and we find the “R” is in need of some major repair.  

The school system has done a great job maintaining the berm but the time had come for a facelift.  

With help from Boy Scouts from Troop 1659 and Troop 1795 the berm recently received the upkeep it needed.  

Swift and the volunteers replaced several of the weather damaged portions of the “R” and spread out three yards of red mulch and half yard of new red decorative stones. While that was being done, parents were pulling weeds that had invaded the spreading yew.

Over the years there have been thousands of pictures of students, graduating seniors, school groups and clubs all posing with the Riverview “R.”  With so many admirers working their way up and down and over the berm for over 20 years the berm has required regular raking of the decorative stone and the addition of mulch.

When asked:  Who or what inspired you to do this as your Eagle Project?

Swift replied, “The inspiration that drove the development of the “R” project was from a couple sources. First, was Travis Gottlin who had just completed his Eagle Project a year or so prior which included an improvement to Riverview High School’s Pirate Cove area.  Second, was the “EF” insignia at Edsel Ford High School in Dearborn. My goal was to make a contribution to the City of Riverview by recognizing the Riverview High School with a similar type of long-lasting monument as my Eagle Project.”

He was also asked if he ever thought that his project would still be here after 20 years?

“Honestly, the way we designed and constructed the “R” I was hoping it would last a lifetime,” he said. “I am thankful for the several different groups of people that had graciously volunteered to do basic maintenance and upkeep with mulching and replacing the wearing sections of wood over the years.  With our recent repairs and painting, I am hopeful that it lasts another 20 years and beyond.”

Swift had this advice for future Boy Scouts and for their Eagle Projects: “I would share with them that the sky’s the limit.  Pick something that hits home, something that they are passionate about to focus on. Then based on that premise, develop an idea that would benefit the community.  

“Follow that with creating a concept and most importantly take the time to carefully plan out the project, start to finish. You’ll get out of it what you put into it. Be proud to be a Boy Scout and continue to strive to obtain Eagle. Once an Eagle, always an Eagle!”

Swift said he is happy his project continues to be a source of community pride.  

“I am so happy and proud, not to mention incredibly humbled, to continuously see all of the photos on Facebook or in the newspapers that Riverview High School students, teams, groups, graduates and others have taken by the “R,” he said.  “And I look forward to seeing more in the future. Plus it is likely the only Eagle Project you can see from outer space!”

Swift thanked Boy Scout Troops 1659 and 1795 for volunteering  to assist in the much-needed facelift. From Riverview Troop 1659 were Landon Eichler, Thomas Roberts, Christian Lancina, Donald Spurloch and John Strassner.  Also on hand to help were scouts Evan McDonald, Quin Kent and Amy Maloney from Troop 1795. 

Swift also thanked Ron Miller from Miller Towing for not only delivering the “R’ back in 2000, but also for his help in pulling it back into place during the restoration.

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