Boy Scouts Find New Home Amid Mountains In West Virginia, an Appalachian mountain is being transformed into a vast Boy Scout camp. It's more than 10,000 acres, and will border the New River Gorge. The $400 million construction budget and future events at the site are expected to aid an economically depressed area.
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Boy Scouts Find New Home Amid Mountains

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Boy Scouts Find New Home Amid Mountains

Boy Scouts Find New Home Amid Mountains

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MELISSA BLOCK, host: Finally this hour, to West Virginia, where an Appalachian mountain is being transformed into the ultimate Boy Scout camp. The Summit, as it's called, covers more than 10,000 acres and has a construction budget of $400 million. The year-round high-adventure camp will be the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree and host the World Jamboree in 2019. NPR's Noah Adams got an early look.

NOAH ADAMS: The Boy Scouts have been moving a lot of dirt for more than a year now at the Summit site, and people kept saying to me, you got to get up in the air to really see it.


ADAMS: We take off in Chris Kappler's open-cockpit biplane.


CHRIS KAPPLER: You can see a part of the Boy Scout reserve already coming into view. We should be there in about five or six minutes.

ADAMS: Soon, we're looking down at a mostly wooded and mountainous site. The 10,000 acres, that's 16 square miles. We fly the perimeter.


KAPPLER: It took us about six minutes here to make a circle all the way around here, and we're doing just about 80 miles an hour. It's really something.

ADAMS: The Boy Scouts have other adventure camps, but this is the big new idea. In addition to the jamborees, the scout troops can come throughout the year for whitewater rafting, even winter camping.


ADAMS: The scouts had looked at 80 possible locations. West Virginia - a day's drive from a lot of cities - had a large tract of mountain land with a for-sale sign on it.

JIM SMALL: It's awfully hard to find an area as virgin as this. The area here is one of the best-kept secrets in the country. All right, I got to go jump in the river.


ADAMS: Enjoy. That's Jim Small, a local kayaker. It is the New River that runs through a deep gorge here, protected by the National Park Service, and tourism is the driving industry. In the town of Fayetteville, Maura Kistler runs an outdoor store called Water Stone, sells sleeping bags, climbing gear. She's hoping for a Boy Scout cash register effect.

MAURA KISTLER: We've been in business 17, 18 years. We had our best month ever in July. All I know is we're beefing up our Boy Scout section.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Time to get more scouts in Patrol Z. There's a jamboree coming up.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And you know there are kids out there that need some adventure in their lives.

ADAMS: That's a clip from YouTube. The 2013 Jamboree is already almost happening on the Internet. Daily blogs keep Boy Scouts all over the country in touch and excited about the Summit. The Boy Scouts hired a local company called Weld - for social media marketing - to create videos and the blogs. George Rogers of Weld says their hypothetical core customer is the digital Boy Scout.

GEORGE ROGERS: Our 13-year-old scout has been a digital native his entire life. He's used to acquiring photos with his phone, even acquiring video, geo-tagging those photos and sharing exactly his precise location at any given time. This platform is where - and in the social media landscape, is really where the conversation is going to happen with the core customer.

ADAMS: In this part of Southern West Virginia, people know the new Boy Scout land as Garden Ground Mountain. It rises high over the town of Mount Hope, which was busy back in the coal mining days. Kirk Harman runs a whatnot shop on Main Street.

KIRK HARMAN: It's a quiet little town. We got new sidewalks, and I guess that's the results, some of the Boy Scouts, new lights. And we got one fast food restaurant that's across the street. If you have about an hour and a half, you can probably get served if it's rush hour.

ADAMS: The rush hour is at lunchtime in Mount Hope. And more customers will show up when the state starts on some Summit-related highway projects, including an access road to the main gate. West Virginia will spend $10 million on the roads, most of it federal money. The Summit also gets state funds to clean up some abandoned coal mines on the property.

MIKE PATRICK: As one of the locals who knows the area well says, the Summit will become the second largest city in the state of West Virginia on July 15, 2013.

ADAMS: Mike Patrick is the chief operating officer of The Summit Bechtel Reserve - that's the full name - the initial funding, 50 million, came from Stephen Bechtel of the Bechtel Engineering Company.

PATRICK: We're building facilities to accommodate 40,000 scouts and roughly eight to 9,000 volunteers.

ADAMS: The unemployment rate here reaches close to 10 percent, and this project brings welcome jobs. There are 285 full-time employees building the Summit camp. Eighty percent of them are West Virginians.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: What'd you say it was, 159 and 11/16ths? This is 7/16ths. So we're good. You worry too much.

ADAMS: I stand at the edge of a lookout with Gary Hartley of the Scouts. The cleared land far below is about 1,000 acres.

GARY HARTLEY: Those big pieces of equipment you see down there that just looks like little toys, you know, triple sevens, the big dump trucks, the tires that are 13-foot tall. And here, they're just little specks from where we're looking at it.

ADAMS: And Gary Hartley can imagine this camp finished. He can see the tent villages, the shower houses, the lake and canoes and kayaks, the zip lines, the mountain bike course, the BMXers, the rock climbers, the skateboarders, and the arena designed for ceremonies and music and 80,000 people in July 2013. Noah Adams, NPR News.

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