GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Officials at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve say everything is in place for next week’s 24th World Scout Jamboree, which will bring in more than 44,000 participants from around the globe for the 12-day event.
Beginning July 22, Scouts and Scouters from more than 150 countries will take part in global scouting fellowship at the site in Fayette County, which was chosen as the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree in 2009. The 2019 festival will be hosted jointly by the Boy Scouts of America, Scouts Canada, and Asociación de Scouts de México.
Director of Program and Operations at Summit Bechtel Reserve Kenn Miller told MetroNews previous scouting events at the reserve have provided a useful template for his personnel to prepare for this year’s jamboree.
“Certainly, this being our third large event — we’ve had two national jamborees — that gave us a great opportunity to shake down the summit, if you will, and get ready for this event of this magnitude. This’ll be the largest event we’ve held, and as our infrastructure’s have proved over time, we’re ready. I mean, they’ve never seen a world jamboree like this, I can promise you,” said Miller.
The sudden influx of humanity temporarily will transform nearby Glen Jean into the state’s second largest city, and Service Chair for Leadership Development Carol McCarthy acknowledged there will be logistical challenges during the course of jamboree, but added there will be an overall structure in place, in order to keep the festival from becoming chaotic.
“They will be put into different programs, rotated through a schedule. They will be able to get out there and do the high adventure things on alternating days, so that we spread them out. And, the Summit Center has a sampling of everything in the high adventure venue, which is a mile-long (of) activities,” she said.
For attendees and others who will be coming and going from the site during the jamboree, transportation accommodations will be in place to get visitors to nearby Beckley, according to McCarthy.
“We are bringing shuttles of people and dropping them in Beckley. We will just drop them off, and they will have time to pick them up later and bring them back, So, we’re transporting them to get them downtown, and there are several different sites that they will be able to go to, be it Exhibition Coal Mine and whatnot,” said McCarthy.
The West Virginia University Bureau of Business Economic Research recently released a study on the impact of Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette and Raleigh counties. Miller said he was pleased, though not surprised, by the findings.
“In 2017, the last national jamboree, 46,000 total participants came through the summit, that year. The total economic output was a little over $76 million and $1.2 million in state and local revenue. That’s a big deal,” he said.
According to the study, in years without a national jamboree, the reserve brings in an estimated $28 million, supports 280 jobs and injects $1 million into local and state tax coffers. The report’s overall conclusions, based on separate data analyses of economic activity in 2017 and 2018, do not include projections from the upcoming World Scout Jamboree.
Research for the study was conducted by BBER Director John Deskins, on behalf of the Boy Scouts of America.
Miller said at least one segment of southern West Virginia’s tourism industry likely will receive an unprecedented boost in business, as a result of this year’s scouting event.
“The other big outreach we’re going to do, that we’ve done at every national jamboree but exponentially larger, will be raft trips. So, we know in ’17 at the national jamboree, it was about $700,000 in revenue to local raft outfitters. (Total revenue from the World Scout Jamboree) will far exceed that,” predicted Miller. We’ve had great interest, and every person that comes to southern West Virginia needs to take a trip down the New River.”
Among the new features constructed at the reserve this year are two permanent dining facilities, two permanent bunkhouses, and two permanent training centers, which were built to accommodate hundreds of people at a time for classes and training-related activities.
Miller said he believes the new facilities, which were built at a cost of $32 million, will become legacy structures within a few years for the community and for returning visitors.