Scout Sofia Graivier knew that when it was time to choose an Eagle Scout project, hers would be at Big Trees Forest Preserve in Sandy Springs just like her brother.

“I love this little nature preserve. I have been going since I was little. And especially in COVID times when we couldn’t really go anywhere, we would come here and socially distance from everybody,” she said.

Graivier met with Sam Hale, the president of the Big Trees Forest Preserve Board of Directors, to discuss projects.

“We’ve been promoting Eagle Scout projects for a number of years. And we love their participation here in the forest. And this was an ideal project for Sofia,” Hale said.

Graivier loves to build things and use her hands, so when Hale offered her several ideas, she chose to build stairs.

“That was the one which ended up being the hardest option out of all of them, but I didn’t care because I wanted to build something that could last for a super long time and be something that a lot of people would appreciate,” Graivier said.

Her design adviser and project supervisor was John Kieran, a retired pastoral assistant who counts woodworking as one of his interests.

The stairs replace a steep, often muddy descent filled with stone and roots that’s part of a trail created by users.

Randy Pollard, a Big Trees Forest Preserve supporter and volunteer, described the location as a low spot on the trail heading up to the parking lot and in heavy rains, water just rushed down the trails. Walking down that section of trail would be very slick.

“There were rocks here, there was a downed tree in here and people will climb over it with their dogs,” Pollard said.

The area below the stairs is a very popular place for children, Kieran said, which was a concern. The creek has low water and a fair amount of seating attracts a lot of families.              

Graivier, Kieran, and some of her friends from Scouts and school began the project.

That first day with up to 15 other students was too many, but Kieran said on the second day with fewer people they made more progress.

“It was good for all these kids to be out and to get their hands dirty and seeing the work that it takes to build something like this and how necessary something like this is in parks where places are dangerous,” Kieran said.

Graivier said first they dug holes for four posts. Once the posts were in place, they were set in concrete. The first design came up short so they added more steps and the flat landing at the top of the steps for surer footing. The landing and the stairs are lined with railings on both sides.

Her dad, Miles Graivier, expressed his pride in his daughter’s work.

“I was really thrilled and amazed to see how everything came together,” he said.

He said it was impressive to see his daughter, who was 14 at the start and turned 15, organizing and planning the project, including getting volunteers.

Graivier said she belongs to an all-girls troop sponsored by St. James United Methodist Church with Leslie Evans as their scoutmaster.

“My scoutmaster is just this great woman. She’s dedicated her life to getting as many young girls into Eagle Scouts as possible because that wasn’t an opportunity for her. So she’s really passionate about it, which is just a really great energy to be there,” Graivier said.

The troop started off with 10 troops and has grown to more than 40 girls. Graivier has a Founders’ patch because she joined the first year that girls could belong to Scouts.

The 30-acre John Ripley Forbes Big Trees Forest Preserve is located at 7645 Roswell Road.

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.