Massive Boy Scout complex nears completion
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:
"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."
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.