The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 24, 2012

It’s getting closer

The Register-Herald

— Much has been said about the economic impact our region will realize from Boy Scouts establishing themselves here, especially with the National Jamboree next year.

But the payoff will be much more than just dollars, and it hasn’t waited for the 2013 event at all.

The Boy Scouts introduced themselves to our area last July, building trails that wind through the New River Gorge National Park during SummitCorps 2011 — the Boys Scouts of America’s (BSA) Order of the Arrow trail work service project.

About 1,400 scouts and volunteers came here and completed one of the largest youth service projects in National Park Service history, clearing more than 30 miles of new trails and rehabilitating another 12 miles.

The trails are maintained by both the Boy Scouts and the National Park Service.

This project will have a lasting impact on our area, already known for its great outdoors activities.

Our state has shown its commitment to the Scouts, making certain we establish adequate infrastructure with highway upgrades and improved access and utility work.

But what a commitment they’ve shown us.

More than just a precursor to the BSA 2013 and 2017 National Jamboree, and the 2019 World Jamboree, last summer’s month-long effort would have taken up to 10 years if the same project would have been completed by the National Park Service staff, they estimated. The Order of the Arrow gave about 80,000 hours of volunteer time, a service valued at an estimated $1 million.

BSA intends to invest at least $250 million at The Summit.

That’s quite a shot in the arm.

Thousands of Scouts will come to the 10,600-acre Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean next year. The Reserve will also play permanent host to a high-adventure base.

We’re looking forward to being a part of hosting them.

But we’re also excited about another relationship that will impact our region for generations to come as it grows.

BSA service projects like this will affect our region for many years.

Once the Scouts come for the Jamboree they’ll spend five days doing service projects across a wide swath of southern West Virginia, coordinated and supervised by the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia.

An estimated 300,000 hours of community service spread over five days with as many as 10,000 volunteers are projected for the nine counties: Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming.

The nearly 300 projects planned include wellness, green-friendly, infrastructure and arts and education.

Additional projects are also slated for this August and September as well with 160 young people working for about five days.

As the calendar keeps inching toward 2013, let’s make sure we’re ready to capitalize on what may be one of the best things to happen to southern West Virginia in decades.

We can’t afford not to.