MERIT: Scout shovels do a good turn - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

MERIT: Scout shovels do a good turn

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Photos courtesy of the National Park Service Photos courtesy of the National Park Service
Boy Scout Order of the Arrow members do advance work on hiking and biking trails along the New River Gorge National River. Boy Scout Order of the Arrow members do advance work on hiking and biking trails along the New River Gorge National River.
Members of the Boy Scout Order of the Arrow prepare trails for the National Jamboree. Members of the Boy Scout Order of the Arrow prepare trails for the National Jamboree.
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With a theme of "Go big. Get wild," high adventure amenities of the New River Gorge will be a major facet of the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree July 15-26 at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County. 

Outdoor sports such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing and mountain biking will be on the daily agenda for many of the 40,000 Scouts attending.

Add to those the not-so-high adventures of digging, shoveling, clearing and chopping as approximately 6,000 Scouts will be performing more than 300 off-site community service projects in a nine-county region of Southern West Virginia. Several of the projects are taking place on the 70,000 acres of National Park Service property adjacent to the 10,600 acres of the Summit.

"They can make a pretty significant impact," said Robin Snyder, chief of interpretation and visitor services for the New River Gorge National River, Bluestone National Scenic River and Gauley River National Recreation Area. "We are working closely in partnership with (the Scouts)."

Snyder said it would take the NPS staff a considerable amount of time to complete the amount of work the Scouts can accomplish in a matter of days.

"We will have 800 Scouts a day for four days constructing trail connectors in the park under the supervision of our maintenance staff," said Snyder, who said advance teams of Scouts have already been working on the projects. The work will continue after the Jamboree when the Summit begins hosting annual high adventure Scout camps.

"We're really in a position to be positively impacted by what's happening right next door to us," she added. 

One of the projects will involve constructing a trail connector from the historic train depot at Thurmond to the Summit. Snyder said she is especially thrilled about an effort to improve access for those who are mobility impaired.

"We will have 320 Scouts with us on for five days who have mobility impaired individuals in their troops," she said. 

"They will be working on projects that will improve accessibility to a really popular place in the Middle Gorge area of the park called Glade Creek. They will be building picnic areas, parking areas, fishing access and campsites. It's a pretty special project for the members who are wheelchair-bound. It's meaningful to what they deal with every day."

Snyder says she believes the Scouts will learn lifetime lessons with the NPS. And not all of the Scouts will be males. This will be the first Jamboree to include Venturers, a branch of the BSA that includes young women.

"We have an opportunity to reach so many young people and have them have an experience and have some fun on their public lands and learn a little bit about the National Park Service. They will have a chance to realize what their contribution can be in taking care of their parks. Hopefully, with that community service that they are providing, they'll take that message back to their homes across the United States."