Thanks to a years-long competition between a father and son, Pineville residents now can enjoy bocce during their next visit to Belle Johnston Park.
Michael Taft Martin, 16, has spent more than 55 hours constructing the bocce court as part of his Eagle Scout project.
Martin, a member of Troop 502 in Pineville, wanted to achieve his Eagle Scout rank before reaching the age his father was when he received that honor; his father got it just before turning 18.
“We always had this competition,” said Michael Martin, a sophomore at South Mecklenburg High School. “It kept me in scouting this whole time because I wanted to be better then him.”
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His father, Scott Martin, said he never pushed his son to get into Scouting, waiting instead for his son to discover it on his own.
When Michael Martin brought home a flier in the first grade about Scouting, Scott Martin said, he showed his son his blue uniform and records for the first time.
Scott and his wife, Kim, also volunteered as leaders.
“We wanted to show him if it mattered to him, we were willing to spend the time,” he said.
Around age 11, Michael Martin really started getting into Scouting, taking an interest in progressing and making rank, said Scott Martin.
“He started to buckle down and take it very seriously,” said Scott Martin, whose family lives in Cardinal Woods. “That’s when the competition started. He asked me, ‘When did you get your first badge?’”
Fast forward to last fall, and Michael Martin was preparing for his Eagle Scout project.
He ultimately decided to construct a bocce court, in part because of the sentimental connection. The game, reminiscent of horseshoes, involves throwing a ball at a target, with the goal being to get your ball closest.
“When we go to Sunset Beach, we’ll take a solid set of three or four bocce balls and play once or twice a day,” he said. “We have a fun time with it.”
Martin said he also wanted to focus on a project that would promote fitness and be family friendly.
Michael Martin presented his proposal to the Pineville Town Council. He also had to provide a detailed proposal to the council and Scout leaders, said Kim Martin.
Martin researched other bocce courts and even contacted host Ahmed Hassan from the HDTV show “Yard Crashers,” who had built a bocce court on the show.
“One of the things I’ve seen him excel at is that he’s very project-oriented,” said Kim Martin. “He’s got a very detailed focus when it comes to putting a plan together and making it happen.”
Martin started working on the project last November, although he’d been planning the project since summer, said Kim Martin. Because of weather issues, the project wasn’t completed until early April.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony with Mayor Jack Edwards was scheduled for April 25, she said.
As part of the project, Michael Martin had to delegate tasks to other Scouts, ranging in age from 10 to 17. There also were adults on site to help where he asked them to, said Kim Martin.
In all, Michael Martin said, there were 220 service hours invested in the project.
The final product? A 76-by-13-foot bocce court with layers of large rock, pea gravel and screening material to mimic sand (Michael Martin said it’s more “price effective and low maintenance” that way), and a built-in bench for relaxing during games.
Kim Martin said that over the course of the project, she saw her son become increasingly assertive.
“That’s one of the areas we saw significant growth: being in charge of the project, being the man that had the answers,” she said.
Scott Martin said he’s proud of the perseverance his son has shown.
Not only is Michael Martin getting his Eagle Scout rank two years earlier than he did, Scott said, but he also has acquired awards his father never earned.
That includes the Arrow of Light, which Scott Martin says is “the highest award you can get in Cub Scouts.”
“I think it’s wonderful that he wanted to do something that I had done and then take it a step forward,” he said. “It’s something that I did that he did measurably better.”
Want to go?
The bocce court is at Belle Johnston Park in Pineville; to play, bring balls or check some out at the Belle Johnston Community Center, 1000 Johnston Drive in Pineville.