Scouting for Success
When the Boy Scouts of America chose the New River Gorge area as the site for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, it was a win for West Virginians as well as the Scouts.
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You could say West Virginia won a very big lottery—but luck had nothing to do with the New River Gorge area being chosen as a permanent site for the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) National Scout Jamboree. Why is it a big deal? Every four years, about 50,000 Scouts, leaders, and staff from all over the country gather for a 10-day celebration of all things Scouting. They camp, reunite with old friends and make new ones, learn new skills, and test themselves in high-adrenaline sports. And they pack an economic punch in the $25 million range for the region where they meet.
Virginia’s Fort A. P. Hill has hosted the Jamboree since 1981, but in 2007 BSA leadership began looking for a permanent base—one suitable as a High Adventure Camp on par with the Florida Sea Base, the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, and the Northern Tier in Minnesota. “The BSA received 80 site proposals from 28 states—representing every time zone,” says Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations for the 2013 Jamboree. “The site needed to be accessible to Scouts from all over the country, have everything necessary to host a large gathering, and lend itself to Scout activities such as camping, hiking, biking, climbing, and boating.”
When the proposals were narrowed to three, West Virginia was still in the running, along with sites in Arkansas and Virginia. In November 2009, the BSA announced its choice—a 10,600-acre parcel of rugged woodland near Mount Hope, West Virginia, in Fayette County.
Several things tipped the scale in favor of the West Virginia location, according to Dave Arnold, founding director of Class VI River Runners in Fayetteville and a member of the governor’s committee chosen to prepare the proposal. “One of the deciding points was the site’s location next to the New River Gorge National River, property managed by the National Park Service,” Dave says. “This gives Scouts access to an additional 70,000 acres of wilderness with some of the best mountain biking, rock climbing, and white-water rafting in the country.
“It was also a large tract of land for a reasonable price,” he says. “We thought the topography might be our biggest challenge, but it turned out to be an asset. Reclaiming a former strip mine is in keeping with the Scouts’ environmental principles, and the hills provide natural separations for activity areas such as sporting clays and archery.”
Accessibility was another plus. The New River Gorge region is within a day’s drive of more than half the U.S. population via three interstate highways (I-77, I-79, and I-64), and U.S. Route 19 runs by the property, too. There are daily commercial flights into West Virginia’s Beckley and Charleston airports, and Amtrak trains run through the area stopping at two stations.