PRINCE — Wielding shovels and buckets and muscling wheelbarrows full of gravel to various worksites, an energetic army of 200 hard-hatted Boy Scouts from across the country arrived Wednesday on the shore of the New River at the Grandview Sandbar Campground.
The group, hailing from Arizona, Massachusetts and Virginia, made short work of rehabilitating two accessible campsites, adding two accessible picnic areas, constructing two handicapped parking spots connected to a new accessible trail to the New River shoreline, and stabilizing an existing boat launch ramp.
Their work on the National Park Service’s campground along the New River Gorge National River was one of more than 220 community-service projects in 45 of West Virginia’s 55 counties undertaken by the 40,000 Boy Scouts attending the 2017 National Scout Jamboree, taking place at the Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glen Jean. Wednesday was the final work day for the Boy Scouts’ Day of Service projects taking place during the Jamboree, which ends today.
“I glad we’re doing this work,” said Boy Scout Jacob Hoeing, of Charlottesville, Virginia, who was helping resurface one of the accessible campsites by installing, leveling and connecting plastic paver grids and anchoring them in gravel to provide permanent flat ground for tents, picnic tables and grills.
“My grandpa is disabled, due to problems with his feet, and my mom has had both hips replaced,” he said. “I know how hard it is for them to get around on uneven ground.”
“It’s important for us to be doing work that’s meaningful for people in the community,” said Hunter Justice, of Halifax, Massachusetts, a member of the Old Colony Council of the Boy Scouts of America, after hauling a 5-gallon bucket of gravel to the campsite, which will be equipped with lantern hangers, picnic tables and grills sized to accommodate wheelchair users.
Justice, making his first visit to West Virginia to take part in the Jamboree, said the state’s terrain is “wilder and more rugged than what I’m used to. It’s really nice.”
The Jamboree, he said, “has given me a lot of cool things to do in one really huge place.”
“It’s hard work, but I’m glad to be doing it,” said Life Scout Joseph Powell, of Louisa, Virginia, who has balance, cognitive and stamina issues, after a series of brain operations, and was among Scouts working on an accessible parking area at Grandview Sandbar.
While at the Jamboree, Powell has been able to try his hand at mountain biking, BMX riding, skateboarding and scuba diving.
“Tomorrow, I’ll be doing archery and learn how to shoot crossbow,” he said.
“The Jamboree staff has done a great job in assisting him in being able to do everything he wanted to,” the Scout’s mother, Amberleigh Powell, said. “When he tried skateboarding, the staff had him riding boards on his butt, his belly and standing up. They were even able to help him go underwater and breathe with scuba gear, even though he’s not able to swim.”
“I love all the activities we have at the Jamboree,” said Powell’s Scouting buddy and troop leader, Jason Brooks, who has gone ATV riding and whitewater rafting.
The Day of Service program has its rewards, too, Brooks said.
“It’s shown me that doing something as simple as making a parking lot can change peoples’ lives, by increasing their enjoyment of the outdoors,” he said. “It’s been inspiring.”
“I like doing the work,” said 12-year-old Scout Nolan Ellish, of Phoenix, who spent part of Wednesday carrying buckets of gravel nearly half his size to a new handicapped parking area and a nearby boat launch ramp. “It makes me feel good knowing that what I’m doing will help campers staying here in the future.”
In addition to Wednesday’s Day of Service crew accelerating the addition of accessibility features at Grandview Sandbar, three groups of Scouts spent three Days of Service helping the New River Gorge National River’s maintenance staff build several segments of the new Camp Creek Trail near Thurmond, which eventually will connect to a trail that will travel the 53-mile length of the park.
Justin Storm, the sole full-time member of the Gorge’s trail staff, said that, to him, the through-the-park trail concept seemed a bit ethereal until watching the Boy Scouts at work on the Camp Creek Trail.
“Having a volunteer construction crew like this available at every Jamboree could really make the through-the-park trail happen,” he said.
Other Day of Service projects completed by the Boy Scouts during the 2017 National Jamboree include flood-remediation projects in Rainelle and White Sulphur Springs, trail work, shelter maintenance and other tasks at Kanawha State Forest, Greenbrier State Forest, Camp Creek State Park, Moncove Lake State Park, Little Beaver State Park and Twin Falls Resort State Park, and building a boat launch site at Mullens.
Projects were selected by the Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia, in cooperation with the Boy Scouts’ leadership.
This year, the Scouts volunteered more than 100,000 man hours to West Virginia community-service projects, according to CCCWV spokeswoman Aly Goodwin Gregg.