The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 21, 2013

Get a sneak peek at the Summit

BSA letting a limited number of locals tour the site by car

By C.V. Moore
Register-Herald Reporter

MOUNT HOPE — The Boy Scouts of America, Willy Wonka-style, are giving away 1,200 free tickets to locals to tour the somewhat mysterious and much-hyped Summit Bechtel Reserve before its grand opening this summer.

Because of the sheer scale and pace of construction, few locals have thus far had an opportunity to tour the site. What exactly is going on up on the mountain has been the source of some pretty wild rumors.

But on the afternoon of May 19, thousands are expected to get a glimpse behind the curtain as they pile into their cars and head to Garden Grounds for an advance preview driving tour.

“We just felt because there was such a high degree of curiosity, and because this is such an important element of the community, that we wanted to create a time to let at least part of the public come out and have a look,” says the Summit’s general manager, Mike Patrick.

Participants will see first-hand the nearly three years of preparations that have gone into transforming a neglected former mine and logging site into the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree and the Scouts’ fourth high-adventure base.

They’ll see Summit Center, the core of Jamboree activities. They’ll see the layout of the Scout camps, the stadium, and the new cell towers. They’ll see the lakes workers have created and recently stocked with fish.

“They’ll see a beautiful transformation of what was formerly a scarred landscape,” said Patrick.

Though they won’t be permitted to leave their vehicles, participants will use signage and an accompanying map to identify key elements of the project.

Driving the 14-mile route will take about an hour, all told. The whole property will eventually have 35 miles of roads.

Tickets will be issued one per household on a first-come, first-served basis. Each ticket permits as many as can fit into a single car to enter the site.

“It’s kind of like car load night at the drive-in theater,” says Patrick.

He hopes participants will take pictures and share their experience with those who can’t make it.

“We recognize that we probably don’t have enough tickets to meet the demand, but by the same token, we only have limited capacity on the site for the number of vehicles we can fit onto the route ... so we apologize in advance to people who might not get a ticket,” he says.

“Hopefully those that do come will be able to share their experience and thereby feel like they have more of a part in what’s going on there.”

Patrick stresses that this will be the public’s only opportunity to get on-site before the Jamboree.

It’s also an effort to acknowledge the efforts of contractors and their employees who are responsible for the site’s transformation.

With 86 days left until opening, workers are reaching the late stages of construction this month. They’re doing things like grading and seeding the base camps where Scouts will pitch their tents, taking care of punch list items on shower houses, and completing sidewalks on the Consol Energy Bridge.

Construction of activity centers is back in full swing now that the weather has improved, says Patrick.

Distribution and placement of troop supply kits, a task that takes eight weeks, will begin soon. The kits, which consist of tents, cots, and cooking equipment, are delivered to the camps by flatbed trailer and set in place by fork lift.

Patrick compares this last big push to a full court press late in a basketball game.

“Will every last item be completed by July 15? Probably not,” he says. “We’ll probably still be fixing something or touching up some paint or tweaking something. I’ve never been on a big project that we didn’t have some things that were still ongoing past the opening.

“In the attractions business, there’s an adage — ‘If you wait to open, you’ll never open.’”

But one by one, the adventure elements are falling into place. On Thursday, Patrick and other staff tried out the eight canopy tour courses built by Bonsai Design.

“It was fantastic,” he says. “Over the trees, there are places where you have three and four canopy tours intersecting in the same spot, so you’re able to see people going in different directions above and below you.”

If Scout-curious locals miss this event, they will also have an opportunity to purchase day pass tickets during the Jamboree. Visitor days start July 17 and run for a week.

The day pass provides access to the Summit Center, the hub of Jamboree activities, exhibits, and displays.

Patrick expects to have a website up and running soon to offer the day pass tickets to the scouting community. Depending on demand, a certain number of tickets will then be made available to the general public.

The driving tour runs from 1 to 4 p.m. May 19.

Tickets can be obtained at the Customer Service Center of Crossroads Mall beginning April 24 during business hours, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

One ticket will be required per vehicle on the day of the event, and vehicles without a ticket will be turned away due to limited capacity, say the Scouts.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com