The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

November 27, 2011

Helping to reach the Summit

Patrick spearheading efforts to make reserve a reality

Perhaps one of the most telling indicators of the enormous scale of the Summit Bechtel Scout Reserve being built in Glen Jean is to look at the staff placed at its helm.

Mike Patrick, general manager/chief operating officer of the Summit, has an impressive list of accomplishments in the recreation and tourism industry. Located in the New River Gorge region, the Summit sits on 10,600 acres of forest near some of the most sought-after outdoor recreational opportunities in the world.

The National Boy Scout Jamboree is scheduled to take place at the Summit in 2013 and 2017. The World Jamboree is slated to take place in 2019.

Patrick was born in Connecticut, the son of a career Navy man who moved the family around quite a bit. His start in the recreation and leisure industry was no small project.

He started by helping to open Walt Disney World in Orlando in Florida in 1971. From there, he would go on to Maryland, Florida, Texas and other locales to work positions with Busch Gardens’ Adventure Island, Silver Dollar City, the Orlando Science Center, SeaWorld Florida, Worlds of Discovery and Busch Gardens Tampa.

Patrick eventually returned to Florida to start his own consultant business based there, where he would meet his wife of 30 years. As a consultant, he completed over 40 projects in 12 countries.

“I’ve been on all of the continents except Antarctica and I have no desire to go there,” Patrick said.

During his career he has worked with many of the “big names” in the business including Paramount and Six Flags.

Recently, he had been working on a “major five theme park development in Dubai,” but the financial crisis shelved that project. He had also taken on an assignment in Egypt, but returned to the U.S. before political tension that led to the Arab Spring.

His stints in the Middle East also include an assignment at Abu Dhabi to work on Ferrari World, the world’s largest indoor theme park.

He was originally invited to work on the Summit as a consultant, but in February he came aboard as general manager, packed his things and has been living in Fayetteville since.

“A year ago, if someone said I would be working for the Boy Scouts, I would have thought they were out of their mind,” Patrick said. “I certainly wasn’t aware of the Summit project. As I did become aware of it, I had the opportunity to be involved in some of the ‘visioning,’ if you will, for what the Summit will become.”

As the project developed, Patrick said, the value of the Summit became increasingly apparent.

“I quickly realized this was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “Rarely do you find a project of this scale that is going to have such a long-term impact for so many people.”

Now that he is in charge of the total site development in regard to operational use, Patrick said “average days” are hard to come by. He and the staff of about 10 at the Summit office in Crossroads Mall find themselves scattered across the country on a daily basis.

Patrick said the opportunity to work on a project such as the Summit has some unique qualities when compared to some of his past projects. For one, the project is not being catered to pure fun, but also to build leaders.

“It’s different in a lot of ways,” Patrick explained. “Obviously this is an organization that is the largest youth-serving organization in the world. The Boy Scouts of America have a hundred-year-plus tradition of developing leaders and instilling character in young people. The idea of having a permanent facility that will carry on that legacy, and a facility the Scouts themselves own, is a brand new concept for them.”

In the past, the Boy Scouts have always held their Jamborees on property that didn’t belong to them.

 “The vision for the Summit, beyond just the permanent home for the Jamboree, is to offer a high-adventure development and training base where Scouts and, ultimately, non-Scouters will be able to come and get a sense of what Scouting is about,” Patrick said. “And it will hopefully further the current Scouters’ involvement in high-adventure and learning and leadership development and also to take those folks not familiar with Scouting and introduce them.”

Patrick said the project will pay dividends by the politicians, businesspeople, educators and other valued persons that will grow out of the Boy Scouts experience at the camp.

In his position, he also has the opportunity to work with numerous volunteers who are making the Boy Scouts project possible.

“The volunteers are just absolutely essential,” Patrick said. “There is no way we could do what we do without them.”

Though “spare time is a rare commodity,” Patrick said he has found ways to occupy his time in West Virginia, while his wife and children are in the Tampa area.

“I’ve found there’s no lack of interesting things to do in this area,” Patrick said. “I ride bikes, I also ride a motorcycle. There are great places to go and explore.”

He may have been working, but he also got to explore West Virginia largest one-day event during Bridge Day. Before that, he spent time below the New River Gorge Bridge paddling the New River.

Patrick said he hasn’t made it yet, but the Gauley River “is certainly on the list.”

“There’s so many activities available in this area, I haven’t explored them all yet,” Patrick said.

Patrick said that his family has been just as enamored with the area as he has been.

“My wife went back to Florida for the weekend and she said, ‘I miss the mountains, it’s flat down here,’” Patrick said. “I do wonder sometimes, I think she stays in Tampa more because the kids are there, but if she had a choice between Florida and West Virginia she would pick West Virginia for where she would prefer to live.”

He said he particularly loves where he lives in a secluded area of Fayetteville where he frequently sees deer and wild turkey. When autumn strips the leaves away, he even gets a good view of the New River Gorge Bridge from his front porch.

“Just dropping into Pies and Pints now and then for a good pizza is a big plus too,” he added.

Patrick said an element of what the Boy Scouts will be doing is to show off all West Virginia has to offer to thousands of people every year.

“People are going to learn West Virginia is more than just I-77 and Rt 19 and some pretty mountains,” Patrick said. “There’s a lot West Virginia has to offer, the people are great. The scenery and the natural resources here are just beyond what most realize.”

Improving the area nearby for purposes beyond the Boy Scouts will also be a priority. Last July, the Summit Corps built bicycle trails on National Park Service lands that are now available to the public.

They also raised $16,000 for local charitable organizations.

“If the Boy Scouts can’t be good community neighbors, who can?”

The Summit project, widely believed to be one of the largest projects ever undertaken with only contributions, has received over $240 million from people who have already expressed their desire to see the project succeed.

Above all, Patrick said, he wants people to know that the Scouts have banked their future on West Virginia.

“The Boy Scouts are all in at the Summit,” he said. “We don’t have an alternative location to hold the 2013 Jamboree — it’s going to be here. The Summit is going to be a 100-year vision. This project will evolve for decades to come. No one knows, right now, what it will ultimately be.”

“This is the future of the Boy Scouts.”

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