Welcome to the Boy Scouts $400,000,000 Mecca to Adventure

“If you build it they will come”… especially if you sock $400 million into the project and add 5 miles of zip-lines through the trees.

Did we mention the skate park, BMX track, and mountain-boarding, too?

A literal mecca to adventure sports is being built in the woods of West Virginia. It’s called The Summit, and this 15,000-acre adventure wonderland, financed with the above-mentioned millions of dollars, will be “the largest project in the history of Scouting” when it’s completed this month.

The Summit site was announced in 2011 in the media, and planning stretches back a few years before that. Construction has been full time since, and this month it debuts to the world, on July 15th, at the annual National Scout Jamboree.


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Mountain boarding, rock climbing, and BMX tracks among Summit activities

Tens of thousands of Scouts will descend upon the site to camp, climb, whitewater raft, and gather as the finishing touches are put on the property this month.

(See more images of the Summit and a breakdown on the adventure activities on page 2 of this post)

The Summit is named after a mountain on the property overlooking the New River Gorge. Immense cliffs line the valley, which drops off to fast-flowing whitewater thousands of feet below.


Site of the Summit: The New River Gorge

It’s a natural wonder and the kind of site Scouts and anyone into the outdoors dreams of spending a week exploring. But don’t think the experience is all hiking trails and merit badges. Though traditional Scouting themes will be present, the Summit aims to be a new and different kind of experience.

I talked with Jack Furst and John Stewart, project leaders for the Summit site. Both stressed the Summit was built for a new generation of Boy Scout, one who is “connected 24/7, phone in hand,” as Stewart put it.


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The Summit includes 15 zip-line routes to equal more than 5 miles of cable strung through the woods

“You invite these kids camping and tell them they need to leave their phones behind… you’re going to lose that kid and never get them outdoors,” Stewart said.

Instead, the Summit — official name: the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve — has more than 400 wifi hot spots amongst its trees. Hiking trails and camp fires will be present, but so will the action sports like BMX, skateboarding, zip-lining, and freeride mountain biking.

Said Jack Furst, the man charged with overseeing the development and programming at the Summit: “Our customer is a 14- to 21-year-old youth. They are interested in hanging upside down on zip lines going 60mph with their hair on fire… while texting.”

Furst is exaggerating. But he stresses being “relevant and cool” was a No. 1 priority when the Summit was being designed. “The Summit is defined by varying levels of adrenaline rush,” Furst said. “It’s also about technology and sustainability.”


2013 Jamboree to introduce tens of thousands of Scouts to the Summit site

The Summit will host the National Jamboree every four years, the first of which is this month, July 15 – 24.

It also joins three major Scouting camps around the U.S. as a new “high adventure base” that Scouts will travel to year-round for activities.

See page 2 of this post for more images and a run-down on the Summit’s impressive amenities to adventure. Makes me want to be of age to join the Scouts again!

—Stephen Regenold

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