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Boy Scouts to build multipurpose trails

By Amber Marra

Daeland Angle drove six hours into the heart of the West Virginia wilderness just to carve his way through it.

Specifically, he and 1,700 other Boy Scouts who also are members of the Order of the Arrow honor society will be making their way through the New River Gorge National River to build multipurpose trails over the next four weeks.

That's 25 to 30 miles worth of trails.

"This project is pretty straightforward; we're going out there building mountain biking trails for public use," said Clyde Mayer, an Order of the Arrow team leader.

The OA is a service organization within the Scouts dedicated to camping, outdoor adventure and environmental stewardship, so the four-week SummitCorps in Fayetteville offers a good opportunity for Scouts to delve into all of those aspects.

Angle, 15, has been interested in helping with projects like SummitCorps since he was just a kid watching the birdfeeder in his Springfield, Va., backyard.

"Ever since I was a kid, I loved to watch the birds in my backyard, and I wanted to find out more about them, so I read a lot about them. Then I moved on to Boy Scouts and found out there's lots of stuff I can do to help wildlife and preserve our environment," Angle said.

He's not the only one who came a long way to start building the trails. Mayer came from Texas to help oversee the project, which is similar to another one conducted by the Scouts for the National Park Service. They restored campsites in five areas across the country in 2008.

"We're an organization that promotes scouting in our local communities, and that's why this project fits together very well in the Order, what with dealing with the outdoors and providing service to our communities and our scouting program," Mayer said.

The scouts will pull out the tools necessary to start blazing the trails today and get to work clearing the areas around Garden Grove and Craig Branch. Only employees of the National Park Service will be allowed to use chainsaws, however.

Part of the trails will be on the 10,600 acres the Boy Scouts of America purchased to build the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve as the permanent location for their National Jamboree.

The trails have been designed in part by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

On Friday, the first round of Scouts was pitching tents and getting their bearings in Fayetteville. About 240 are set to begin work today, but those Scouts will leave in a week and be replaced by another group double the size of the first group.

Not all of the Scouts are coming from far away. Brandon Tyson, 15, of Teays Valley is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Order of the Arrow who chose to spend his first week of July cutting through the forest.

"The OA is about service to others, plus it's pretty out here and the West Virginia mountains are beautiful, so it's an opportunity to spend 10 days in the wilderness helping others, you know?" Tyson said.

As with any outdoor adventure, the Scouts have recognized the possibility of accidents and injuries.

That's where Dan Miller comes in as the safety officer and part-time physician.

"We want them to come home and be safe and happy and ready to be a volunteer and serve the community even more," he said.

Miller grew up in Charleston but now lives in Florida and practices ophthalmology. He was excited to be back in the state on Friday, teaching Scouts how to safely clear trails without risking snakebite or dehydration.

"It's kind of neat to come back to my home state and practice my hobby," he said.

Park service officials estimate the work being done by the Scouts over the next month will save taxpayers more than $1 million. It would also take about 10 years without the manpower of more than 1,000 Scouts working together.

For Miller, it's more about fostering an appreciation of the land and the work that can be completed by the end of July.

"How many of these kids will come back years from now and show their kids the trails and say, 'We built these trails in 2011'? It's a legacy being created. We could use more people creating that legacy and coming back rather than sending our youth elsewhere," he said.

Contact writer Amber Marra at amber.marra@dailymail.com or 304-348-4843.


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