OAK HILL — (Editor’s note: Below is the final in a series of three articles on the economic impact the Boy Scouts of America’s presence will have on the area with the debut of the BSA Jamboree next year, and the later operation of a High Adventure Base at Summit Bechtel Reserve in Mount Hope.)
City of Mount Hope, meet the Village of Cimarron, N.M.
The two towns may be almost 1,500 miles apart, but they have one big neighbor in common — the Boy Scouts of America.
Cimarron, pop. 1,021, is home to the Philmont Scout Ranch, a 137,000-acre tract of wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains where, on any given summer day, several hundred Boy Scouts are unloading from buses and preparing for a 12-day backpacking adventure.
Mindy Cahill, clerk administrator for the Village of Cimarron, sums up her town’s relationship with the Boy Scouts of America this way.
“Without them, we probably wouldn’t exist,” she says. “They are one of our biggest industries here.”
Cimarron is 4 miles from one of three BSA “High Adventure Bases” in the country. The BSA has proposed the same designation for The Summit, their new development near Mount Hope. The other uses for The Summit include a permanent Jamboree site, National Scout Summer Camp and Center for Leadership and Excellence. All but the Jamboree are still several years away.
Never before has the BSA operated one permanent facility for all these activities, so what it will mean for the economy of the region and how it will impact local life in Fayette County is still a bit of a guessing game. And many of the small towns near BSA sites don’t track the dollars or numbers of people flowing through their community because of the Scouts.
But Cimarron now has 75 years of experience playing host to a total of 950,000 Boy Scout adventurers, and locals there — especially business people — aren’t shy about sharing the lessons they’ve learned over the years and the advice they would offer up to The Summit’s new neighbors.
“First of all, know and love the Boy Scouts,” says Valerie Kutz, owner of Cimarron Art Gallery. “In the summertime, it’s our job to cater to them.”
“Welcome them with open arms,” says Cahill.
“There are little things the community can do to make the Scouts feel welcome,” says Cimarron Inn co-owner Deb Saunders.
Like collecting and displaying patches, the ultimate Boy Scout eye-catcher. The vast collection at Kutz’s soda fountain is a tourist attraction in and of itself. The boys frequent her business, in part, to connect with Scouting and the Cimarron community at the same time.
“Have a walkable town with good signage where (Scouts) can get lost in whatever history you have,” suggests Tim O’Neill, a local real estate broker.
The town recently built a walking path from Philmont to Cimarron so the Scouts would have a safe hike into town. Located on a branch of the Santa Fe Trail, it’s the allure of the Old West that ties together marketing, architecture and signage in the community.
Cooperation among local business people helps, too. A strong community spirit in Cimarron means that business people often work together, calling back and forth to find a way to meet a visitor’s needs if their own business can’t, says Kutz.
O’Neill says the way locals interact with their visitors ultimately has an impact on his business, O’Neill Land.
“The people charm them, and that makes for a stronger urge to purchase property,” he says.