GLEN JEAN — A steady stream of trucks lumbered through the Summit Bechtel Reserve’s north gate and up a dusty grade to delivery points at the six base camps, nine adventure areas and various administrative and maintenance sites within the 21-square mile chunk of forested hills atop the New River Gorge.
Outside a newly erected dining tent for volunteer staffers capable of seating 4,800 people, the operator of a small crane was nudging an institutional-sized dishwashing machine from the back of a truck, while public address speakers were being attached to the lower portion of the Summit’s main cell tower.
As dozens of the Summit’s 270 seasonal workers manned mowers of all sizes to make another circuit over the 700-plus acres of lawns maintained to accommodate camping and other activities, the last of 110 extra Wi-Fi poles were being installed to the keep international campers wired in.
It was Thursday, 10 days before the 24th World Scout Jamboree was set to begin, and the Summit, site of the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamboree and the newest of four high-adventure camps operated by the BSA, was a beehive of activity.
“Starting in 10 days, this will be the biggest city in West Virginia,” said Kenn Miller, Summit Bechtel Reserve’s director of programs and operations, as he drove from a staging area where 340 UTVs and an assortment of cars, vans and pickup trucks rented for the event were parked.
This edition of the World Scout Jamboree, which runs July 22 through Aug. 2, will be the largest in Scouting history, drawing 43,000 Scouts from more than 150 countries, along with nearly 10,000 volunteer staffers, to Southern West Virginia. The event, held once every four years, was inaugurated in 1920, when 8,000 scouts from 34 nations gathered in London.
The only previous World Scout Jamboree to take place in the United States was held in 1967 in Idaho. Attendance at the last three world jamborees, held in England, Sweden and Japan, has ranged from about 35,000 to 40,000 Scouts.
“We’re ready to go,” said Scott Sorrels, co-chairman of the 24th World Scout Jamboree, as he took a break from a work session with his laptop. “We’ve been planning this for 10 years and it’s exciting to see it take shape.”
The availability of adventure activities is probably the main reason this world jamboree will set attendance records, according to Sorrels, an Atlanta attorney when not working on behalf of Scouts.
“Here, you will have all of the exhibits, shows and activities of a world jamboree, plus be able to take part in the adventure events that are unique to this facility,” Sorrels said.
About half of the Scouts taking part in the world jamboree have signed up for whitewater raft trips on the New River in addition to taking advantage of Summit Bechtel Reserve’s adventure offerings.
They include rock climbing and bouldering facilities, five ziplines, rifle, shotgun and archery ranges, mountain bike trails, BMX courses, the nation’s second-largest skateboard park and facilities in which to learn basic kayaking and scuba skills.
While female participation in the BSA organization in the United States is new, coed scouting has been practiced for many years in Europe, which may account for the fact that nearly half of those taking part in this year’s world jamboree will be girls.
About 8,000 Scouts from the United States will take part in the world jamboree this year, and will be dispersed throughout the campgrounds to enhance interaction with scouts from other nations.
The Scouts will prepare their own food, using cookware and stoves supplied by Summit Bechtel Reserve and food from ad hoc grocery stores serving each of the six campgrounds. Several seasonings and spices not normally available at West Virginia groceries will be on hand at the world jamboree to give entrees and side dishes a taste of home. Halal meats and packaged kosher meals will also be available.
Twelve snack bars will be in operation to sate between-meal appetites, and for those craving “fourth-meal” chow, kitchen-equipped tents serving foods representative of 10 participating countries, cooked by volunteers from those countries, will be in operation.
Twenty-two to 27 tractor-trailer loads of food will be transported to the jamboree site daily, using local vendors whenever possible.
To help keep the 43,000 Scouts safe, nearly 600 emergency services personnel will be on hand throughout the event.
Each of the six camping areas will be equipped with a medical support tent staffed 24 hours a day, in addition to a central on-site medical facility equipped with X-ray and lab equipment. Ambulances and EMS personnel will be on site 24-7, stationed at strategic locations, to take anyone needing more than basic care to a nearby hospital.
A HealthNet medical evacuation helicopter will be stationed at Summit Bechtel Reserve during daylight hours, while a second medical helicopter will be on standby at a nearby airport for nighttime emergencies. Summit EMS personnel will operate 12 all-terrain vehicles for medical transportation on the property.
“Exhibits from many of the countries that will be here will be built by the scouts, and put on display at World Point,” Sorrels said, “so you can tour the world in 12 days. There will also be the traditional trading of neckerchiefs, patches, backpacks and other items. Something unique that’s offered this year is an electronic wrist device that lets Scouts instantly share contact information with the people they meet and want to stay in touch with.”
Sorrel said that to him, the best part of a world jamboree “is to watch young people with different customs, from different cultures with different religions, come together and become friends. Even with countries in which the adults don’t get along, the kids get along just fine. We could learn from them.”