West Virginia Department of Commerce Anticipating the Future

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Anticipating the Future

Anticipating the Future

By Andrea B. Bond

Photography Courtesy of the Boy Scouts of America

In July 2013, The Summit Bechtel National Family Scout Reserve will welcome more than 40,000 Boy Scouts and their leaders.

Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve

The Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve occupies 10,600 acres in the scenic New River Gorge.

From all across the country to their 10-day-long National Jamboree. It’s a momentous occasion for the grand opening of the 10,600-acre Scout camp in Fayette County, and one that’s the talk of West Virginia. The camp’s construction has produced an economic impact of $50 million in wages and materials alone, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. After the camp opens, area hotels, restaurants, state parks and recreational facilities are expected to experience a surge in visitors from the Scouts and their families, both in the area and en route.

“Millions of dollars associated with materials, labor and tourism have boosted the local economy, with millions more to come when the Summit opens in 2013,” Tomblin said at the 2012 Sustainability Summit at the Greenbrier Resort. “Together, we are building a sustainable future for the region, our beautiful state, and the tens of thousands of Scouts from West Virginia and across the globe who will enjoy the reserve for years to come.”

In 2007, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) decided to move the National Jamboree from its former location on a Virginia military base to a permanent facility that the organization would own. West Virginia competed in a nationwide search to become the new host to the Scout camp. Proposals were submitted for 82 sites in 28 states.

Candidate sites were required to be at least 5,000 acres, within 25 miles of interstate highways, near adequate medical facilities, and lastly, have spectacular scenery as a backdrop for recreational activities. In West Virginia, then-Gov. Joe Manchin assembled a team of state Development Office professionals, government officials and private volunteers to identify the best site and market it to the BSA. Called the West Virginia Project Arrow Task Force, the group was headed by Dan Massey, West Virginia Development Office liaison (now retired) to the BSA, and Charleston attorney Steven McGowan, an Eagle Scout and volunteer.

“The Summit will offer an unprecedented opportunity for the nation and the world to see and experience the entire state and its hospitality,” McGowan concluded in his economic impact statement in the W.Va. Project Arrow application.

In 2009 the BSA selected a 10,600-acre site in the New River Gorge near the towns of Mount Hope and Glen Jean. The site lies adjacent to more than 70,000 acres of the New River Gorge National River area, providing the Scouts easy access to activities such as whitewater rafting, hiking, bicycling and rock climbing.

Gary Hartley, spokesman for the BSA, said that two deciding factors in the Scouts choosing the Fayette County location were its access to outdoor recreation and its location to population centers on the East Coast.

“We used to hold the Jamboree on the coast of Virginia. We drew a circle representing where the Scout leaders could drive in a day — a 500-mile radius – and half of that circle was in the ocean. Now, in West Virginia, we’re still close to the East Coast but we’ve picked up cities in the Midwest.”

Buildings built on site

Buildings and other structures on the site were made possible by donors, many of whom were Boy Scouts themselves.

Once the site was selected, a donation of $50 million from the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and the Stephen Bechtel Fund — the largest gift in the history of the BSA — provided the financial seed to initiate the project.

Many of the donors are Boy Scout alumni who credit the BSA with providing them with the learning tools and strength of character needed to succeed in life. Others are community members who see the combined value of providing for Scouts’ education while boosting local tourism and economy.

CONSOL Energy Bridge

The CONSOL Energy Bridge, more than 700 feet long and rising 100 feet above a giant ravine, will connect the main activity area to the eastern half of the property.

The CONSOL Energy Bridge is a unique feature of the Summit, Hartley said.

The pedestrian bridge, more than 700 feet long and rising 200 feet above a ravine, will connect the main activity area to the eastern half of the property. It was designed to resemble an eagle’s wing, with three separate walkways, two of which bend above and below the main span. The splayed wooden piers that support the main cables are reminiscent of feathers at an eagle’s wing tip.

CONSOL’s commitment to the Boy Scouts dates back over a decade, said Laural Ziemba, director of community relations at CONSOL. Company chairman Brett Harvey was a Scout himself and he has two Eagle Scout sons.

“CONSOL is a strong supporter of the Boy Scouts of America,” Ziemba said. “The values they instill in our nation’s youth are qualities we seek in employees.”

Gary Hartley said he was appreciative of all the assistance the BSA has received from corporations and private entities, as well as from the State of West Virginia. “The people — city, county, state and the feds, too — have all been really cooperative.”

In preparation for the camp’s opening, the BSA is working with numerous state agencies and privately owned businesses.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement, Wildlife Resources and Parks and Recreation sections are set to provide technical support to the Summit.

Rappeling New River Gorge

The New River Gorge is one of the most popular locations in the eastern U.S. for rappelling, rock climbing and whitewater rafting.

“Some state parks in the BSA-targeted ninecounty area may be sites for service projects during the Summit,” said Ken Caplinger, DNR Chief of Parks and Recreation Section. “Parks with overnight accommodations in the area will recognize an increase in reservation interest at what is an already busy time of the year.”

During the Jamboree, DNR will have an exhibit in the Conservation Trail area which is located in Walter Scott, Jr. Conservation Valley. The Conservation Trail is an area established by the Summit that will feature interactive displays from natural resource-based state and federal agencies. In addition, the Law Enforcement’s Laser Shot trailer, which was very popular at the last National Scout Jamboree, will be an integral part of the 2013 event.

Upon learning that the BSA will equip each Scout with a smartphone, DNR decided to reinforce the smartphone technology by featuring QR codes and Web addresses at their display, according to Curtis Taylor, Chief of the DNR Wildlife Resources Section.

“Familiarizing the Scouts with our websites and QR codes will instill an appreciation for West Virginia’s natural resources, including fishing and hunting opportunities and our wonderful state park system, plus will allow the sharing of our Web-based information with family members and friends,” Taylor said.

He added that, on a short-term basis, the DNR hopes to educate the Scouts about fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreational opportunities, including state parks, forests and wildlife management areas.

“On a long-term basis we hope that the Scouts will be ambassadors for these activities — encouraging others to visit West Virginia, buy fishing licenses and perhaps hunting licenses, as well as stay at our wonderful state parks and forests — thus improving the state’s positive image.”

The West Virginia Development Office has stayed in touch with Summit officials to provide assistance when needed, said Moses Zegeer, trade show manager for Business and Industrial Development and current Boy Scout liaison. When then-Gov. Manchin first met with the Scouts, he committed $10 million to assist with road improvements, and the city of Mount Hope was provided with $3 million for improvements for the water system to serve the Summit.

“The team members who brought the Summit Bechtel Scout camp to West Virginia are ecstatic with the development of this facility,” Zegeer said. “It will be a facility of extreme utilization and be able to serve more people and Scouts than any other facility in the Scouting world.”

The Summit will be incorporated and based on successful modern business models to be self-sustaining, he said. Preliminary plans call for the Jamboree, a summer camp, a highadventure center, a leadership center and perhaps a Scouting museum.

The eventual investment total to construct the Summit is projected to be $450 million. Reports indicate that $250 million of that goal had been reached as of October 2012.

On-site contractors have employed nearly 1,000 people, 80 percent of whom are West Virginians. In addition, $16 million in materials have been purchased in West Virginia, more than $9 million of which were bought from vendors in Fayette, Raleigh or Nicholas counties.

Climbing walls

Climbing walls are one of many high-adventure features at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.

In preparation for the Summit’s opening, recreational and sport activities experts have been on site, planning and directing construction of specialized venues such as zip lines, mountain bike trails, archery ranges and a BMX/skate park.

Numerous projects have been completed by experienced Scouts as they provide labor to clear streams and build and restore paths through the New River Gorge National Park. These programs, activities and approaches to outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship are expected to foster influxes of great numbers of people to the area and the state as a whole.

The Jamboree is scheduled for July 15-24, 2013. The public will be invited to some events, including live music and fireworks for the Summit’s grand opening.

As if the 2013 Jamboree weren’t exciting enough, in 2019 the new National Center for Scouting Excellence in Fayette County will host nearly 100,000 Scouts from more than 160 countries for the 24th World Scout Jamboree.

Construction crews and planners are working seven days a week to ensure that the Summit will be completed in time for its opening date. A test run of the camp last summer produced promising results.

“The Scouts were really excited about the Summit,” Hartley said. “They loved West Virginia — the mountains, the terrain — and also the types of programs that are being offered. We even made the cover of Scouting magazine. So it’s definitely the buzz.”

Likewise, West Virginia is excited to host the Boy Scouts, Zegeer said.

He pointed out that many of America’s greatest political and military leaders became Eagle Scouts during their youth.

“The Boy Scouts of America’s newest venture in our state means that many future U.S. leaders will spend some time during their developmental years in West Virginia.”

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