By C.V. Moore
MOUNT HOPE —
With time quickly winding down until the 2013 National Scout Jamboree opens its doors, the Boy Scouts of America recently held a public meeting in Mount Hope to give residents an overview of the event and its potential impacts on local communities.
“I hope this has pulled back the curtain a little bit, as they said in ‘The Wizard of Oz,’” said Mike Patrick, operations director for the Boy Scouts of America.
“We want to help you understand what to expect as Scouts begin to arrive in the area. We think we’ve done a good job of managing that so that it’s not going to spill over into the communities,” said Patrick.
About 35 locals showed up to the meeting at the former Mount Hope High School. Patrick hopes for a better turnout at the next such meeting at 6 p.m. June 27, also at the high school.
“I just wanted to know how all the pieces of this great big huge puzzle all fit together,” said meeting attendee Linda Brown of Mount Hope. “We know more now, and as it happens, we’ll all learn from it.”
The Jamboree kicks off with the arrival of more than 35,000 Scouts on July 15 — a “magical day,” according to Summit Director Larry Pritchard.
“It’s incredible to watch what happens at arrival day,” he said, referring to the coordination involved in registering and transporting hundreds of busloads of troops in the span of several hours.
Transportation Management Services has been contracted to manage the traffic at the Jamboree and limit its impact on the immediate area. Tom Rickheim of TMS compares it to putting on a “miniature Olympics.”
Before they ever enter the Summit, Scouts and visitors will all converge at a parking lot on U.S. 19 behind the Sunoco gas station in Bradley, where an estimated 225 buses and 6,000 cars will be parked during the event.
They will then be shuttled to the Summit via W.Va. 16 and W.Va. 61.
The West Virginia State Police will be directing traffic at 13 key intersections.
Heaviest traffic is predicted on troop arrival and departure days (July 15 and 24) and on the night of a stadium show (July 20), between 10 p.m. and midnight.
The main pressure point will be on U.S. 19 at the Sunoco, where people will turn into the parking lot.
Once they unload from buses, Scouts will spend much of Monday setting up their camp sites.
Tuesday features dedication ceremonies and an opening show, to which President Barack Obama is invited.
The first full day of Jamboree is Wednesday, July 17, which is also the first day visitors are permitted on site.
That day, 20 percent of the Scouts will be fanned out across nine counties in southern West Virginia completing service projects. Another 20 percent will be taking a long hike to the highest point on the Summit property. The remainder will be participating in the many adventure activities planned for them both on site and off site.
Saturday, July 20, features a stadium show from 7 to 9 p.m.
“I can’t tell you who the entertainment will be, because that will break our contract,” said Pritchard. “I can tell you it’s someone the Scouts will absolutely love.”
Sunday is largely set aside for worship services.
Closing activities will begin Tuesday, as buses begin staging for departure day Wednesday, July 24.
The Jamboree will be open to visitors from July 17 to July 23 during specific hours. A complete schedule can be found at visitjambo.org.
“We want you all to come,” Pritchard told attendees.
Tickets can be purchased at visitjambo.org. They will also be available day-of at the visitor parking lot.
Adult day passes cost $30. Prices are cheaper for children and multi-day passes.
Visitors will have access to activities at the Summit Center, the hub of the Jamboree. There, they can sample mountain bike trails, canopy tours, archery, shooting sports, rock climbing, a skateboard plaza, and other exhibits.
“I’m going to get a hold of my family members and tell them they can come here instead of Hershey Park this summer,” said meeting attendee Kathleen Scott, also a member of Mount Hope’s town council.
Many local merchants are wondering whether and how the event will impact their bottom line.
“You’re not going to see a super huge spike,” said Patrick. “There will be a percentage increase in volume. ... It’s going to be more spread out.”
Scouts and leaders will remain at the Summit for the duration of the Jamboree, though it’s possible they could arrive a day early and have some impact in that way.
The real impact will likely be from visitors to the event, who could grab a meal or a hotel room locally. Between 4,000 and 5,000 have signed up so far, according to Pritchard.
The maximum capacity would be around 20,000 visitors per day, but Pritchard said he'd be surprised if that many showed up.
Additionally, about a thousand exhibitors and sponsors will be staying in local hotels and eating at local restaurants during the event.
Tourism-related businesses, auto repair, and general merchandisers are among those who will likely see the greatest impact, according to members of the business community near Fort A.P. Hill, where Jamborees were held in the past.
Attendees also heard about safety and security during the event.
Shane Wheeler, Summit health and safety manager and Mount Hope’s fire chief, assured his neighbors that no shortcuts had been made in the area of safety.
“Every decision made on the Jamboree, the question has been asked — ‘How will this impact the community?’ ... As hard as we have tried, I’m sure there’s going to be some inconveniences,” he said.
One of those won’t be the ability to get an ambulance or a fire truck in case of local emergency, said Fayette County Office of Emergency Services director Shawn Wolford.
“We don’t anticipate a decrease in service for locals,” he said.
He urged the public to sign up for free text alerts of any emergencies at nixle.com.
Security will be “robust,” said Gary Hartley of the BSA. Visitors should expect to pass through several security checkpoints. Only day packs and water bottles will be permitted inside — no food, backpacks, picnic baskets, or coolers allowed.
Patrick said at the end of the day, he hopes the 35,000-plus Scouts who visit Fayette County this summer will go away with a great memory and a desire to someday return.
The Boy Scouts of America has an office at the Crossroads Mall in Beckley, where the public can get additional information about the Summit and the Jamboree.
“We’re easily accessible. Come by and see us,” said Hartley.
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