BURLINGTON — It all started with an idea to make the gateways into Burlington more appealing.
Once a local Eagle Scout got involved, the magic happened.
Now there is a new town square named after the Eagle Scout’s father. It sits in the spot that was once an old gas station at the busy intersection of State Street, Milwaukee Avenue and McHenry Street in Burlington.
“It was an eyesore for so many years,” said Burlington Mayor Jennie Hefty.
Now there is new life there, thanks to a community effort.
Last fall, city officials were going over the city’s strategic plan and discussed a desire to beautify the city, starting with the gateway areas into the city.
Tommy Martin, a Burlington High School student, heard about the city’s idea and thought his Eagle Scout project could fit into that vision. He approached the mayor about it.
However, between that initial meeting and this summer, Martin’s father, James Martin — who had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and was a respected area attorney — died in December.
That didn’t stop Tommy from following through with his plan to help the city.
As word got out about Tommy’s project, people throughout the community started stepping up to help, Hefty said.
Scott Erickson from Rustic Road Landscaping designed the area, Reesman’s Excavating helped with landscaping needs and Unilock donated all the bricks, including those for a huge circular planter in the middle of the square. Then the Burlington Garden Club came forward to help plant.
“You can see how this started snowballing,” Hefty said.
But they were still short on the amount of money they needed to make everything a reality.
Then retired Racine County Circuit Judge Allan “Pat” Torhorst, who knew Tommy’s father, came forward and volunteered to talk to friends in the legal community who also knew James Martin.
In the end, the city decided to name the area Martin Square in honor of Tommy’s efforts and his father’s memory.
“It shows what the Burlington community is all about,” Hefty said about Martin Square. “When they heard about a thing, they wanted to be a part of it.”
Many Eagle Scout projects
Tommy wasn’t the only Scout working on the project. Over the weekend about 40 Scouts gathered at the square to put some of the finishing touches to the area, including rolling sod.
This year, there were seven Eagle Scouts working on projects in the area, Hefty said. While Tommy’s project received the most publicity because it was in such a public area, Hefty said they have all done great things for the community.
“You can see how these Eagle Scout projects are amazing,” Hefty said, citing the new square as just one example.
Looking at the square on Saturday night, Hefty described the experience as surreal.
Street lights lit up the square and the steeple at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, 108 McHenry St., illuminated in the background.
Pretty much everything is done now, Heft said, other than ripping up an area of cracked sidewalk. They are also waiting for a few decorative benches, a matching garbage can, a bike rack and the final Martin Square sign.
It’s a project in which Hefty believes Tommy’s father played some role.
In talking to Tommy, Hefty said: “What you are doing is for the city as a whole … your dad is looking down and helping you with this.”