Four years of research and the discovery of a wooden sign have uncovered a historical link between Tacoma, the first trails at Mount Rainier and L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.
The story starts and ends with Carl Fabiani, a former National Park Service employee who retired in 2010 after 45 years working at Mount Rainier.
Fabiani found a wooden sign about seven years ago while doing trail maintenance work just off the Wonderland Trail loop near Longmire. The sign mentioned something about Eagle Scouts, he recalled in a recent conversation.
“I was very surprised to find a trail sign at that particular location,” Fabiani said.
The sign turned out to be a key in the narrative that Issaquah resident Chris Finn has pieced together in the past four years.
Finn’s research focused on a group of Eagle Scouts responsible for building and repairing trails in August 1925. The trails were some of the first trails built for the National Park Service.
“This was the first time the Scouts were actually doing a community-service type activity for free for the park service,” Finn said.
The hand-selected group of Eagle Scouts, which included boys from Tacoma, Seattle, Everett and Bellingham, built two new trails and repaired more than a mile of old ones.
Finn is a volunteer with Friends of L. Ron Hubbard Foundation, and he told The News Tribune that his research started with notes written by the founder of Scientology alluding to trail work during his time as a Tacoma Scout.
Hubbard was one of the 13 Scouts responsible for those first trails. He was a member of the regional Boy Scouts of America Pacific Harbors Council.
He joined Tacoma’s Black Eagle Patrol, Troop 31 more than 90 years ago, according to a news release from Friends of L. Ron Hubbard.
“One of the things that really ignited his life was Scouting,” Finn said of Hubbard.
Last month, the 13 Scouts were recognized by the Pacific Harbors Council for the historical trails project.
A wall display was presented to the Scouting organization by Friends of L. Ron Hubbard and can be viewed in the Great Room at the council’s Tacoma office on South 19th Street.
Finn’s research about the trails project was confirmed with the help of Fabiani, who helped Finn re-locate the original trailhead marker last summer.
The 6-by-16-inch cedar sign attached to a tree said “EAGLE TRAIL, BUILT BY SCOUTS OF EAGLE RANK, WESTERN WASHINGTON 1925.”
A News Tribune story from Aug. 13, 1925, recorded the beginning of the project, which was subsidized by the federal government and lasted about 10 days.
The names of the boys who did the work are named, including Ronald Hubbard of Seattle.
Finn said the efforts of those Eagle Scouts started what has evolved into a decades-long relationship with the Park Service.
“It sort of began this partnership between the Boy Scouts and the Rainier National Park to volunteer and help out with other trails,” he said. “The Scouts still do this. It is a wonderful community service that they do.”
Ted Woodlock, Scouts executive of the Pacific Harbors Council, said the display is one example of how the Boy Scouts have had an effect in the region since the very beginning. He said it exemplifies the organization’s motto and shows the effect it can have in their communities.
“People should know about this piece of history because it demonstrates what Scouts can do,” Woodlock said in an email to The News Tribune. “Those 13 Eagles were just a small representation of the thousands that were doing ‘good turns’ on a daily basis.”
SEE FOR YOURSELF
Anyone interested in seeing the historical display can visit the Boy Scouts of America Pacific Harbors Council at 4802 S. 19th St. in Tacoma. For hours and other information, call 253-682-2217.