The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Sunday Profile

July 14, 2013

Summit vision

By Wendy Holdren

Register-Herald Reporter

The first day, or “Furst Day,” of the Boy Scouts National Jamboree is one that will celebrate not only a lifelong Boy Scout supporter, but how his vision inspired other Scout leaders to make the Summit Bechtel Reserve a reality.

But the humble Jack Furst, a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Executive Board, an officer of the National Council and a team leader for developing and programming the Summit, is quick to share the credit with other officials, volunteers and donors.

“It’s humbling. Obviously I’ve enjoyed serving the Boy Scouts, but there are so many other people. This is a celebration of teamwork, leadership, collaboration and a shared vision. Furst Day really belongs to our donors, because without them, none of this would be possible.”

Jamboree Program Team Leader Russell Smart said this day really celebrates the vision Furst brought to get the whole project started.

“That’s what got the rest of us enthused about doing this project — his vision of what this could be and should be.”

He added, “Plus, it’s a good name.”

Furst laughed and said, “It is a good name. It’s been my name for 54 years.”

With just one day left until the Jamboree begins, Furst and Smart are both ecstatic about the big debut. They’ve even been testing out what the kids will be doing.

“It’s a customer experience and we can’t know what their experience is like unless we’ve experienced it,” Smart said.

“The biggest problem we’ve found,” Smart said, “is that there is no possible way someone can do everything during the course of the Jamboree. They’re going to have to come back.”

A Scout’s to-do list is full at the Jamboree: mountain biking, rock climbing, BMX, ziplining, whitewater rafting, shooting, archery, challenge courses.

Smart said those activities, on top of the traditional Scouting ventures like camping and hiking, will make for an unforgettable experience.

“Our customer wants to be hanging upside down on a zipline going 60 miles per hour while texting, so that was what we were focused on as we brought this site up to speed,” Furst said.

Last summer, about 4,000 co-eds were brought in for a four-day shakedown.

“We tried out the things that we were most concerned about being new, but everything went great,” Smart said.

He noted that this is the first time the Jamboree will allow girls to join in on the adventure.

The girls are part of the Scouts’ youth development program called Venturing, which was started in 1998 and allows both boys and girls ages 14 to 20 to participate.

During the shakedown, Smart said a temporary zipline was set up for the guys and gals to test.

Smart said the outcome was somewhat surprising. “The guys were going down screaming out of fear, but the girls were screaming out of joy and fun.”

He even said that the World Jamboree, set for 2019 at the Summit, is expected to be an unprecedented 40 percent female.

That’s not the only thing that’s changing in the world of Scouting — the Summit will become a permanent home for Scouting adventures instead of having four-year temporary locations.

Not only will the Summit host the Jamboree, but Furst said next summer they will open the high adventure activities to their customers.

“As this journey continues to unfold, it’s our hope that we’ll be able to program it to serve hundreds of thousands of kids. That’s not going to happen next Tuesday, but being located 10 hours away from about 65 percent of the population of the United States is a huge opportunity.”

They said the site aspires to be a 24-7, 365-days-a-year site.

“It’s easy for people to imagine what we can do in the summertime, but the shoulder seasons, both the spring and the fall, open up a lot of opportunity for us to stretch our brains in terms of programs that we can throw out for our customer. Our target market is 14- to 21-year-olds.”

The Summit will always be a work in progress, they said, but they are “100 percent where we wanted to be to throw the Jamboree in 2013.”

Smart said the site is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Even from its humble beginnings as a timber and mining site, the Fayette County location ranked No. 1 in a national search when the Scouts were seeking a permanent home.

During the summer of 2008, the Scouts received 80 property proposals in 28 different states, but the Mountain State came out on top.

“It took a little bit of creativity and imagination to sit down and decide that this site could work, but the diversity of this site is unbelievable. Our customer has the opportunity to do so much.”

Thousands of Scouts and their families will be introduced to West Virginia and all its natural beauty, and both Smart and Furst are excited about the possibilities.

“This is such an impressionable age,” Furst said. “These kids, their experience base because of their youth is limited. This is going to be a wow-moment. Whether it will remain in their top 10 as they journey out, no one knows, but at least for a particular time between 14 and 21 or 14 and 25, it’s our hope that when they come here, this is an experience they rank top 10.”

Smart added that as these kids grow older and have children of their own, it’s likely they’ll want them to see and experience what they did here.

The Jamboree, while it is jam-packed with adventure, is also a chance for the Scouts to give back to the community.

Furst said they have planned with local communities to do a day of service in nine counties and they expect to total 300,000 hours of service.

“We’re all about service and giving back. We know what we feel like after we do a day of service — We feel really good.”

Whether you’re a lifelong Boy Scout supporter or Scouting is unfamiliar territory, you’re invited to check out the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

“We designed and built the site to serve our customer and our visitor,” Furst said.

He said visitors will have a “village experience” and they will get a taste of what the kids are doing at the Jamboree.

Visitors can ride bike trails, go down a zipline and preview many of the activities.

“One other reason they’ll want to come is that they’re going to be very proud. You’ve taken a mining and timbering property and rejuvenated it and brought it to its natural state. Everyone can get a little jazzed about that.”

For more information about visitor passes, hours, rates and more, go to www.visitjambo.org.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com

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