Not all the construction work is complete, but what has been accomplished so far at the Boy Scouts of America camp in Fayette County left state lawmakers deeply impressed.
Five of them took a special tour of the complex in Glen Jean last week during interims, in an effort to muster support for a proposal giving the scouting facility expanded tax-exempt status.
Given the crush of legislative meetings, however, the turnout by lawmakers making the jaunt from the Capitol to Fayette County was low.
“It’s phenomenal,” Delegate Carol Miller, R-Cabell, said Wednesday of the tour a day earlier.
“Their vision is incredible. They’re building three lakes, they have zip lines planned in many places, and they have a BMX bicycle place. It’s all forward moving. It’s all about health. You know what the Boy Scouts stand for.”
Miller said she was impressed by the scouts’ emphasis on a healthy lifestyle and respect for the planet.
One aspect that stood out for Miller was the system for pumping water in for showers and the attendant sanitation process.
“It shows how they’re being stewards,” she said.
“They’re looking into some solar electricity and that’s very much in the offing for the Scouts. I’d love to see it again in six months.”
Despite the tour, Miller hasn’t decided on how she would vote to broaden the Scouts’ tax-exempt status that would let the facility be used year-round for other activities outside their normal scope.
“I can’t answer that right now,” the delegate said.
“I’d want to see it on paper.”
Officially known as the Summit Bechtel Family Boy Scout Reserve, the complex will host a national jamboree next summer, luring in thousands of visitors.
There is no indecision on the part of another member of Finance Subcommittee A.
Sen. Mike Green, D-Raleigh, said this would enhance economic development and attract more visitors to the region.
On the tour, a leading Scout official, Charleston attorney Steve McGowan, said the organization would proceed with its plans at the complex, regardless of how the bill fares next winter.
This year, the tax-exempt proposal, which calls for a Constitutional amendment on the next election ballot, cleared the Senate but died in the House of Delegates.
“Steve made a great point with the science center that they’re going to build,” Green said.
“That’s a great avenue to bring in students for the educational process. Not only will it open the public school system up but will open the doors to those children that wouldn’t have access or knowledge of what the Boy Scouts are really about.”
Green was impressed with the layout spread over thousands of acres.
“It will be the biggest thing that hits West Virginia in my lifetime,” the senator said.
“We went to the overlook and were able to look at a panoramic view of the whole roughly 1,000 acres they’re working on now. We could see the infrastructure that is being put in, the lakes being dammed up and the amphitheater. You could see from afar everything that is going on. It was very impressive.”
Green toured the grounds about 16 months ago and said the crews have accomplished much since then.
Others making the tour were Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, and Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood.
“It was beneficial obviously for those persons,” Laird said of those making the limited tour.
“We wish we could have had better attendance, but trying to get that in during (interims) meetings is difficult.”
Laird co-chairs the finance subcommittee, a 15-member panel.
“I think the scope and size of the project is very impressive,” the senator said.
“Most of the work at this time has been site preparation and putting the infrastructure in place. There is not a lot of vertical construction at this time. You can clearly get a sense of the footprint of the summit reserve, and it’s very impressive.”
While he isn’t a member of Laird’s committee, Sen. Evan Jenkins, D-Cabell, is no stranger to scouting, having one son who was an Eagle Scout and a second about to reach that plateau.
“I think it’s one of the most exciting things happening in West Virginia,” Jenkins said of the Fayette County complex.
“I think it will transform southern West Virginia. Over the last two years, there have been several policy initiatives that have happened to make West Virginia and this region not only attractive, but uniquely situated to help this project move forward. I’m proud to be a part of it.”
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