Buckskin Council staff moves into new Scout center

KENNY KEMP | Gazette-Mail photos
Craftsmen Craig Duncan and Matt Hoffman of NatureMaker Steel Art Trees assemble a 12-foot-tall artificial oak tree in the lobby of the new Buckskin Council Scout center.
Staff of Buckskin Council of Boy Scouts of America moved into the new H. Bernard Wehrle Sr. Scout Leadership Service Center on Wednesday. The new building on Kanawha Boulevard East replaces and expands upon the Wyatt Scout Services Center, built in 1979.
A meeting of Buckskin Council’s staff takes place in a new conference room in the 13,000-square-foot building.

While work is not entirely complete on Buckskin Council’s new $3.7 million, 13,000-square-foot H. Bernard Wehrle Sr. Scout Leadership Service Center, members of the council’s administrative staff moved into their new office wing on Wednesday, held a staff meeting in the building’s new conference center and continued planning work on how to get the most use out of the new building once construction is complete.

“By Monday, most of the hubbub inside the building should be done,” said Buckskin Council Scout Executive Jeff Purdy, as council staffers stocked uniforms, badges, patches, guidebooks and other scouting-related items in the council’s store — three times larger than the previous one — and craftsmen from NatureMaker Steel Art Trees assembled a lifelike 12-foot-tall artificial oak tree in the new building’s lobby.

Weather permitting, “landscaping work should be done in two weeks, and by June or July, we should begin taking reservations for our new camping area along the river and our new indoor activity area,” which can be used for indoor camping, Purdy said. “We’ll probably have our dedication ceremony in August.”

The former Buckskin Council building, built nearly 40 years ago, was gutted and rebuilt to accommodate administrative office space while an all-new wing that houses the activity area, the Scout store and a conference center has been added. The new complex is located along Kanawha Boulevard East, between Daniel Boone Roadside Park and the Craik-Patton House.

“The Council served 16 counties when the older center was built, but now we serve 32 counties” in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Ohio, Purdy said. “We needed to grow, especially since we’ll be getting a lot of visitors going to and coming from the Summit Bechtel Reserve.”

The new center’s main lobby will contain museum exhibits of scouting paraphernalia, displays telling the story of the building’s namesake, H. Bernard Wehrle Sr., West Virgina’s first Boy Scout, along with the oak tree and an audio system that produces the sounds of a West Virginia forest. The lobby will also feature a park bench on which a life-sized bronze statue of H. Bernard Wehrle Sr. as an adult will be seated, allowing Scouts to have themselves photographed with the state’s Scouting pioneer.

Purdy said the new store will have an expanded inventory that includes sleeping bags, backpacks, cook sets and other outdoor gear in addition to uniforms, patches, badges and guidebooks. Troop-sized Scout groups en route to the Summit Bechtel Reserve near Mount Hope or passing through West Virginia for other reasons will be able to camp along a grassy bench equipped with a fire ring and small amphitheater between the new building and the Kanawha River. Scouts may also reserve the new building’s activity center where they can roll out sleeping bags and pads on the floor, and make use of the center’s refrigerator and microwave-equipped food preparation area, rest rooms and three showers.

“We will be holding STEM program weekends and working with Craik-Patton House and its director, Paul Zuros, to hold American Heritage merit badge programs,” Purdy said.

The Martha Gaines and Russell Wehrle Memorial Foundation and the H. B. Wehrle Foundation contributed $1.5 million to build the new center, with the rest of the funding coming from private donors and a community fundraising campaign.

H. Bernard Wehrle became a Boy Scout on May 10, 1911 in Charleston. He went on to co-found the McJunkin Corporation, a major supplier of oil and gas drilling equipment.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-5169 or follow @rsteelhammer on Twitter.

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