GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Though the 24th World Scout Jamboree is more than four months away, the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, which is hosting the event, has been a hub of pre-planning activity in recent weeks.
The 12-day festival, which is hosted jointly by the Boy Scouts of America, Scouts Canada, and Asociación de Scouts de México, begins July 22, bringing together about 45,000 Scouts and Scouters from more than 150 countries to take part in global scouting fellowship at the site, which was chosen as the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree in 2009.
Director of Program and Operations at Summit Bechtel Reserve Kenn Miller told MetroNews he recognizes that, in addition to the substantial economic activity likely to be generated by this year’s scout gathering, the Jamboree provides an opportunity for West Virginia to showcase the region as an attractive destination for other groups and for individual tourists.
“We know for the vast majority of those that attend the Summit Bechtel Reserve, their first visit to the state of West Virginia is coming to this scout camp. The Summit was picked from 80 sites. 80 finalist sites were picked, when a request went out. That was in 28 states,” he said. “West Virginia University School of Business is conducting an economic impact study on the Summit. We haven’t had one in several years, and I think it’ll be significant to show the impact that the Summit is having. We employ 64 full-time staff, and then in the summer, we employ an additional 250.”
Miller said, despite its past successes with scouting events, the Summit Bechtel Reserve’s potential benefits are yet to be fully realized.
“The Summit’s only been operating for five years. When you think about that, to go from what was a surface mine, and turn it into the premiere youth camping facility in the country and the world — and we have growing pains, but we’re doing really well,” he said. “As we start networking around the country, we find there many church denominations (that) have youth retreats of scale, 3, 4, 5,000. We can hold those kind of events, unlike any other venue. So, we’re always looking for those opportunities and, frankly, ones that can repeat, so we can get our business model (in place). And the more folks that come to the Summit, the better it is for the community.”
Although the World Scout Jamboree may not return to the area for several years, Miller said the Summit has some natural advantages over other locations likely to compete with West Virginia as a host site for future scouting-related activities.
“In four years, (the World Scout Jamboree) will be in South Korea. They’ll find a piece of turf, build it out for that one-time event, and then leave. So, they don’t have the infrastructure that the Summit Bechtel Reserve has, with the zip lines, all the programming, and the 32 miles of mountain bike trails, BMX, the skateboard parks. And, being on the New River is absolutely awesome. No scout’s experience here is complete without a raft trip down the New River,” said Miller.
Construction of new dining and housing facilities is scheduled to be completed before the expected arrival of the scouting groups in mid-July, according to Miller, who said the new features also will further the goal of widening the Summit’s appeal.
“The Summit’s over 14,000 acres, and we want it to be a community asset. Currently, in the summer, we run wall-to-wall, we do quite well but we have a temporary dining facility and all the housing’s in tents. So, through this construction, we’ll be able to house participants in a bunk house. Our dining hall seats 300 inside, 200 on the wraparound porch. Then, we’re also building the Rex Tillerson Leadership Training Center, which is a beautiful setting that’ll allow us to open up to more community groups,” he said.
Day visitors will be able to purchase tickets to meet and interact with scouts on certain days, but will not be permitted to participate in the Jamboree’s recreational activities. Several displays and exhibits depicting scouting around the world will be available for viewing. Day passes for groups and individuals are available for purchase online and at the J.W and Hazel Ruby Welcome Center on US 19 in Mount Hope.