By Debbie Adams
Alex Coffey of Vinton has earned Scouting’s highest honor—the rank of Eagle Scout. He is a
member of Troop 584 based in Bonsack, meeting weekly at Bonsack United Methodist Church.
His Eagle Scout Award Ceremony was held at the end of August. He has also been selected to
the prestigious Order of the Arrow, the BSA honor society.
Curtis Altice, who has been Coffey’s Scoutmaster for several years, says, “Alex is an
outstanding kid and one of the best Scouts I have ever worked with.”
Coffey graduated from William Byrd High School in the Class of 2023 as a Distinguished Honor
Graduate with a GPA of 3.7. He was also an engineering student at the Burton Center for Arts
and Technology. He played saxophone in the Jazz Band at Byrd for the past three years. He is
now a student at Virginia Western Community College, working towards his Associate Degree
in Environmental Science, while also employed at Explore Park, supervising the Zip Line
To attain the rank of Eagle Scout, Scouts are required to complete an Eagle Scout project. His
project consisted of installing new tree identification plaques along the Roanoke Valley
Greenway at various locations, including on the Wolf Creek Greenway behind William Byrd,
and also at Explore Park and Oak Grove Park.
Scoutmaster Altice says, “Alex put a lot of effort into designing and installing the markers. He
did a great job. I have nothing but praise for him.”
“I have been involved in scouting since I was 7 years old as a Cub Scout,” said Coffey. “Years
ago, an Eagle Scout visited Bonsack Elementary where I went to school at the time and handed
me a flyer for scouting. He told me to fold it like a tent and put it over the milk in the fridge so
that my parents would see it.
“I wish I could meet the man who unknowingly changed my life. Scouting and the outdoors have
been a massive part of my life ever since I began Scouts BSA. From backpacking on mountains
through the snow, to whitewater rafting in Fayetteville, the impact scouting has had on my life is
“This summer I spent time working as a commissioner and caving guide for BSA Camp
Powhatan. This gave me the opportunity to converse with Scouts and adult leaders from all over
the East Coast. One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to always invest your time in others
when given the chance. The people I have talked to and gotten to be around have always been
incredibly positive influences on my life.”
Coffey says his Eagle Scout project “was inspired by my years of walking along Wolf Creek;
especially during quarantine, as a route to get home after school. I always walked past the old
identification posts thinking, ‘I really wish someone would do something about that.’ It
especially struck me as important because of William Byrd’s life science classes using the trail
for tree identification and some ecology labs.
“An Eagle Scout project takes a considerable amount of planning to complete,” Coffey
explained. “Before anything could begin, I had to have my project approved by the beneficiary,
which in my case was Roanoke County Parks, Recreation, and Tourism. Originally, I had
planned to only rebuild the tree identification posts and clean up the outdoor amphitheater near
Stonebridge Park, but after a few calls with the Roanoke Parks & Rec volunteer coordinator, we
decided that creating standardized posts and tree identification plaques would be more beneficial
to the county. This greatly broadened the scope of my project, but I was extremely excited to
have this task assigned to me.
“I sent a few design examples until the beneficiary approved a design, and I fabricated a
prototype to be officially approved. My plaques were created through a process called
sublimation printing, which is essentially a special kind of ink being heat-pressed onto a
material. I had planned to have my designs etched into metal, but sublimation printing was
suggested to me by Mr. Shawn Burns at the Burton Center for Arts & Technology. Mr. Burns
was an incredible help in my design process and allowed me to use the machines at BCAT for
my project. The support I received for this project was overwhelming. I’ve had many people
come up to me while working on my project conveying their appreciation.
“By the end of my project, I had fabricated around 70 plaques with the names and a graphic of
individual trees. There are 22 in Wolf Creek, seven in Oak Grove Park, and two at Explore Park.
Unfortunately, these signs still don’t entirely cover the wide variety of tree species native to
Virginia, but I selected trees I know are most common in our area.
“In Wolf Creek, we dug up old posts and installed 11 new wooden posts. We opted for metal
stake posts for other sites so that the addition of new posts would be easier in the future. The
standardization of the posts and plaques was especially important.”
Altice said Coffey had a “big crew of friends, family, and fellow Scouts assisting with the
installation. He did a great job.”
Once he completes his associate’s degree, Coffey plans to transfer to a four-year college to
pursue a degree in environmental design.
“I am not sure exactly where I will find myself, but I plan to continue being involved in scouting
locally and nationally,” Coffey said. “Through the Order of the Arrow, scouting’s national camping honor society, I can continue to participate in scouting activities and provide cheerful service at the Blue Ridge Scout Reservation and throughout the world.”
Tom Coffey and Cindi Coffey are his proud parents.