Nature playground installed at Renner Sanctuary as part of Eagle Scout project


SIDNEY — Fifteen-year-old Kaia Kellersmith is on track to become the first female Eagle Scout in Shelby County after she completes her nature playground at Renner Sanctuary.

“I just hope that this is something that brings a lot of people into our parks because I think it’s really good for kids to be immersed in nature and be around it. And I think that this could be something really, really cool and really fun for a lot of people,” Kellersmith said about the impact she hopes this park will have.

On Saturday morning, a group of volunteers joined Kellersmith in setting up the pieces that will be included in the playground. With the help of her family, Kellersmith made a picnic table, a to-scale eagle’s nest, sandbox, seesaw, handmade wood-burned Tic-Tac-Toe and checkers boards with hand-painted rocks and handmade park signs. The volunteers gathered at Renner Sanctuary to help assemble the playground and clean up the area to make sure it was ready for the public to enjoy.

Kellersmith, daughter of Chad and Dr. Cara Kellersmith, is headed into her sophomore year at Houston High School in the fall. She has been involved with the Boy Scouts of America since they opened the organization to girls in 2019. She is a founding member of the first girls Boy Scout Troop in Shelby County: Troop 5097.

In 2019, Boy Scouts of America rebranded after making the decision to allow girls to join, now going by Scouting America. In this restructuring, they opened their programming to allow girls to complete Eagle Scout projects and attain the highest award of Eagle Scout. This came after there was a desire from young girls to learn more survival and wilderness skills, where Girls Scouts were more focused on community service.

Kellersmith was one of many girls in the community who had watched older brothers participate in Boy Scouts and wanted to do the same things they were doing. Polly Orcutt, scout master of troop 5097, and Tammy Lee, assistant scout master, have provided the advisory that has allowed this group to grow from only Kellersmith to a total of nine girls. Kellersmith will be the first in the troop to complete an Eagle Project and hopes to inspire the rest of her troop to work towards theirs as well.

“I hope that it inspires more people in my troop to go for their Eagle. It’s definitely not an easy thing, but I hope that more people see this and they’re like ‘I can do that too!’” Kellersmith said.

Kellersmith got the inspiration to build the nature playground at Renner Sanctuary because she watched her older brother, Alex, build a barn there for his Eagle Project two years ago. With Dr. Cara Kellersmith also being a park commissioner on the Shelby County Parks Board, Kaia began attending meetings to provide ideas and learn what was needed in the county parks.

“Yeah, it is an unknown treasure, for sure… people who come here end up coming here a lot because it’s just nice and peaceful.” Dr. Cara Kellersmith said about Renner Sanctuary.

They decided to focus their efforts on that specific park, adding new things every year. At this point, Renner Sanctuary has a pollinator habitat, a story trail, Alex’s barn and now this playground.

“I’m going to say this is overwhelming and brings tears to my eyes. We’ve been talking about this for years. I mean, five or six years, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s do it!’ And now, here it is.” Dee Monnin, Friend of the Park volunteer, said.

Friends of the Park is the volunteer organization that works to preserve and maintain the four parks included in the Shelby County Park District. This includes Renner Sanctuary, Hardin Woods, Lockington Reserve and Bornhorst Woods. The organization is always looking for more involvement from the community and more volunteers. If anyone is interested in learning more or signing up to become a Friend of the Park, visit

Reach Sidney Daily News reporter Anna Edmiston at 937-538-4825.

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