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Massive Boy Scout complex nears completion

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Scouts will be swinging from treetops, biking over mountains and shooting at targets in just a few short months when the Boy Scouts of America hosts the National Scout Jamboree in July.

Since 1981, 40,000 Scouts, leaders and staff have gathered for the 10-day event at Fort A.P. Hill U.S. Army Base in Virginia. But the Jamboree's new, permanent home is nestled in the West Virginia hills.

The Boy Scouts reviewed 80 sites in 28 states before deciding on the location.

"I'm not sure we could've done this in any other geographical location in the country," said Mike Patrick, Summit operations director. "We've had the cooperation of the state, local authorities and contractors, and I think that's the reason we are where we are and as complete as we are at this stage."

The Boy Scouts of America purchased a 10,600-acre plot of land in Fayette and Raleigh counties next to the New River Gorge National River that is now about 90 percent of the way to becoming The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, said Gary Hartley, director of community and governmental relations for the Summit. The Boy Scouts have received commitments from donors in excess of $250 million for the area.

"Most of all the roads are in place, and the utilities are being finalized. And we're continuing building 336 showerhouse restrooms - getting running water and electric and a septic system," Hartley said. "We'll be dressing up the property right up until the Jamboree."

The Jamboree, which will be July 15 through July 24, is allocated about 1,000 acres of the Summit - primarily for campgrounds for the Scouts.

"We're making flat land for camp sites in this phase. We're taking what was mine land, where highwall mining had been done, and they timbered a good bit, too," Hartley said. "We've tried to maximize mine benches - reclaim those mine benches - so it's previously mine land that just needs to be further contoured. It's kind of like building soccer fields or football fields. We need the water to roll off, but not so much that scouts fall out of their tents. We're about 90 percent complete on that."

Included in the 1,000 acres for the Jamboree is the Summit Center, which will have large tents for national exhibits and display activities the Scouts will be involved with for visitors.

A large part of the remainder of the property will remain natural. The other portion will be high-adventure bases, which are activity areas outside the main part of the Jamboree. There are currently three other high adventure bases: Florida Sea Base, Northern Tier and Philmont Scout Ranch.

The Summit will include:

  • Mountain Biking ("Low & High Gear"): The property features 36 miles of mountain bike trail spanning the land for all different skill levels. The High Gear course includes a trail that has more than 100 turns from top to bottom and is designed so that the rider should be able to complete it without using any pedals or brakes. The Low Gear course for mountain bikes contains cross-country trails and a challenging downhill course.
  •  "The Folks building the mountain biking love the rolling hills here," Hartley said. "They've developed world class trails on the property. The rolling terrain is beneficial here."

  • Scuba and Swimming ("The Pools"): This area will include scuba, kayaking, Dragon Boat racing, a water obstacle course and more. For 2013, the area will include four Olympic-size temporary pools. Some activities will also take place in the four lakes on site.

  • Skateboarding ("The Park"): The skate park will offer portions for beginners up to experts that can use the bowl, the vert ramp or foam pit.

  • Ziplining ("The Zip"): The ziplines will reach speeds up to 50 mph in one of the longest zip line courses in North America. Five parallel zip lines stretch more than 3,000 feet long.

  • Canopy Tours ("The Canopy"): Cables run from tree to tree in a natural trail through the area. This adventure includes geology, history and topography of the region.

  • Climbing Walls ("The Rocks"): The climbing area will allow Scouts to ascend and rappel man-made walls in more than 150 climbing routes.

  • Shooting Sports ("The Barrels"): 60 acres is devoted to a sporting clay course with more than 100 stations and sports include shotguns, rifles and pistols.

  • Archery Sports ("The Bows"): The archery area will feature traditional training with bows and sporting arrows, which will challenge Scouts to hit moving targets as they're launched in the air.

    Future Construction


  • Additional construction includes a 700-foot footbridge that is 10 stories high and traverses a ravine from campsites to the Summit Center funded by Consol Energy. Hatch Mott MacDonald, an engineering firm, partnered with a German architect to create the winning design that has a flat walkway across the center.

  • AT&T is bringing in more than 10 cell phone towers, including 3G, 4G and LTE as well as wifi throughout Summit Center. Randall Stephenson, the chairman and CEO of AT&T, is the 2013 chairman of Jamboree.

  • A 75,000-square-foot logistics center will house the tents, cooking gear, archery equipment and other necessities will come for the Jamboree.

  • Two drinking tanks - a 2 million and a 6 million tank - are pulling from both Mt. Hope and Oak Hill for the water mains running through the property.

  • "The Cloud" will be a technology center that will be based on STEM studies - science, technology, engineering and math.

  • The Conservation Trail along the edge of the lake will allow national agencies to set up. Scouts can participate in activities and earn a patch at the end.

    After the Jamboree

    "After the jamboree, we'll go back in construction mode and work on additional construction to support high-adventure base," Hartley said. "In 2014, we will run a pilot program of high adventure camp, run during the summer."

    The same 1,000 acres devoted to the Jamboree will be used for the summer programs, with few construction updates needed.

    Four pilot programs will be offered in 2014 in which Scouts across the nation can participate for 10 weeks. Troops will be able to pick a program and sign up for the camp. The programs include The River, Helmets and Harnesses, The Marksmen and The Wheels.

    The River includes water skills - kayaking and rafting, so Scouts will spend some time on the New River. Helmets and Harnesses includes climbing, repelling, ziplining and canopies. The Marksmen will include shooting sport with firearms and archery. The Wheels will be mountain biking, BMX and skateboarding.

    "After that, we'll find out what works and what we want to keep and what needs improved upon. Then, we'll expand in 2015," Hartley said.

    The next Jamboree will be in 2017, and the location will be used in 2019 for the World Jamboree, with high-adventure base options in between. While the pilot program is only open during the summer, the plan is to expand to spring and fall, with the eventual goal of running a year-round program.

    "I think the Scouts will see that scouting has entered a new era," Patrick said. "They will realize that this is not the Jamboree of old. This is a new program focused on high-energy, high-adrenaline experience that the Jamboree will grow on and build on. And our fourth high-adventure base is something that will have very few rivals in types and variety of experiences that scouts can encounter here."

    In the future, they plan to open a program up to the public.

    Contact writer Candace Nelson at or 304-348-5148. Follow her at


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