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Summit Bechtel Reserve holds open house

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - More than a thousand community members got to see the changes taking shape at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette and Raleigh counties Sunday.

Contractors began work on the site about three years ago. In that time, they've cleared land, built infrastructure, a stadium, pools, a skate area and miles of biking and hiking paths.

The Summit Group distributed 1,200 free tickets over four days to local community members for a first-time view of the progress at the site.

The number of tickets allotted was based on the Festival of Lights at Ogelbay Resort in which visitors participate in a driving tour. The park has a similar route and can accommodate roughly 33 cars per hour, said Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations for the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

"We wanted as much of the public to be able to see the site as possible while still keeping logistics in mind," he said.

Many park-goers received tickets through distribution at the Crossroads Mall in Mt. Hope. Eddie Souk, 63, of Mt. Hope, said his wife received a ticket at the mall, and the family packed the car full to check out the state's newest landmark.

Souk's family has been involved with the Boy Scouts for some time. Their car was the first in line Sunday. 

"We're very excited to check it out," he said. "It's a good thing for the area, I think."

The tickets allowed Souk and others the chance to take a driving tour of the sprawling site where the Jamboree will be held.

Souk said the nearby community is benefiting from the redevelopment of the site, which was formerly an abandoned mine.

"Some of our streets have been getting paved in Mt. Hope, and we'll just have to see what else will come from it," he said.

The site's inaugural event is the Boy Scouts of America's 2012 National Scout Jamboree, which will be held July 15 to 24. The land will serve as the new, permanent home for the jamboree, which is held every four years.

It will also be the site of the 2019 World Scout Jamboree.

"In 2010, it was the 100th anniversary of Scouting," Hartley said. "At that time, we wanted to look forward to the next 100 years, and there's nothing like a big project to rally people and get them interested in Scouting."

The tour took visitors through a 14-mile route where some 40,000 Scouts, leaders and staff will gather for the 10-day event. This will also be the first year it will host co-ed campsites.

The 10,600-acre plot of land in Fayette and Raleigh counties has devoted about 1,200 acres to the jamboree, which contains high-adventure sites visitors could see firsthand, such as Goodrich Lake, the skateboarding park, rock climbing walls and various challenge courses.

More than 100,000 square feet of skate area span the park, which is just one of 11 outdoor adventure areas. "The Park" includes bowl sections, plaza-style skating and more to accommodate all skill levels.

"The Trax" includes tracks for mountain biking and BMX riding. Shawn Walters, a worker with Spohn Ranch, a Los Angeles-based company that designs skate parks, said the track he was practicing on was designed so riders have to pump hard in-between each hill.

Visitors also had a chance to view some of the four manmade lakes and the climbing walls, which were constructed with steel wires, covered in concrete, which were sculpted and painted to match surrounding rock. More than 30,000 handholds can be adjusted for different routes of difficulty.

Summit Center, which is the portion open to the public, contains a little of each activity so Scouts can get a taste of a new sport before pursuing it at one of the adventure sites. One hundred acres are devoted to Summit Center, which includes 10 ziplines that go over a stadium that can seat 70,000 people.

AT&T has installed more than 10 cell towers, five of which are at Summit Center, and more than 250 Wi-Fi hotspots are throughout the site. More than 100 miles of utilities are wired underground.

"All the critical projects are on schedule," said Allison Schapker, director of design and sustainability for Trinity Works, the site developer. "Some of the surface things -- like decks or grass seed -- is most of what's left. The infrastructure is done, and there's only some heavy construction being done -- like the pools -- as we finish up."

Schapker said the site's footprint would be as small as possible.

"We're going not just to reclamation, but to restoration," she added.

West Virginia contractors completed about 80 percent of the work. Of those, about 20 percent came from Fayette and Raleigh counties.

The project is expected to cost about $350 million. So far, there have been $332 million in commitments. 

The Boy Scouts reviewed 80 sites in 28 states before deciding on the location. The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve will served as the fourth high-adventure base and, in addition to being the permanent home of the national jamboree, it will host programs during the summer and ultimately year-round.

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

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