The Fayette Tribune, Oak Hill, W.Va.

Local News

July 3, 2013

Residents question Boy Scouts officials

MOUNT HOPE — Seriously, there is no bunker.

That was the running joke at a community meeting held by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) last Thursday in Mount Hope.

As the BSA’s Summit Bechtel Reserve was being built in Fayette County, rumors were rampant about the construction of a secret underground bunker on the site, similar to that formerly located at The Greenbrier resort. A Cold War-era fallout shelter was constructed under the Greenbrier County facility to which Congress could relocate in case of a disaster.

But now it’s official — the BSA says there’s no bunker. The rumor represented the most extreme of locals’ fears about the Summit facility and its potential impacts on their daily lives.

The BSA hoped to put some of those fears to rest during Thursday’s meeting, the second of two held by the organization to provide an overview of 2013 National Scout Jamboree activities and potential impacts, as well as reassure locals that plans are in place to deal with traffic, medical emergencies and other issues.

Michael Stone of Mount Hope came into the meeting with concerns that local communities weren’t being treated fairly by the BSA and the government agencies supporting them. He has been following the BSA’s request for an amendment to the state constitution to expand the organization’s tax-free status, for example. And he’s worried about traffic on his local roads.

“Up until this point, I’ve felt like the BSA really has taken advantage of our state and my biggest concern was to make sure we got our fair shake,” he said.

He asked the BSA about who will get the priority for traffic control during the Jamboree — Scouting visitors or locals? And he wanted to know how much notice the public would receive if President Barack Obama decides to attend the Jamboree.

By the time he walked out of the meeting, Stone was feeling a lot better about the whole situation.

“They answered all my questions, and I’m pretty comfortable with their answers,” said Stone, who is the project manager for one of the Reaching the Summit Community Service Initiative projects being carried out by Scouts in Mount Hope.

“I’m prepared for (the Jamboree) to be an inconvenience, but I wanted to make sure it’s not going to be an end-of-the-world inconvenience.”

The meeting at the former Mount Hope High School attracted about 150 attendees, who peppered Scouting staff with questions after several informational presentations.

One wanted to know whether private boaters would be able to get into the water during the Jamboree, when 2,500 Scouts per day will make their way down the New River. Jeff West of the National Park Service compared the volume to a “busy Saturday on the river” but said no Scouts would be on the water during weekends or after 4 p.m.

Another wondered whether a loud sound system he heard being tested recently was going to keep him up at night. The system is only for emergencies, the BSA assured him.

Will there be food on site? Will there be wheelchairs? Will gay rights activists protest at the event? Is there a backup plan for heavy storms? Will I be able to see the fireworks from my front porch? These were some of the other questions for which the public wanted answers.

Larry Pritchard, Jamboree director, urged the public to learn more about the event at the BSA’s various web and social media sites, including www.bsajamboree.org, www.summitblog.org/ and www.facebook.com/TheBechtelSummit/.

“I can’t even begin to tell you what everything is like out there,” said Pritchard. “I do know it’s worthwhile for you to see what’s in your backyard.”

Tickets for the Jamboree can be purchased  on the website at summit.scouting.org.

So far, 5,000 advanced visitor passes have been sold.

— E-mail: cmoore@register-herald.com

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