FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. -- When volunteers from the Order of the Arrow -- Boy Scouting's national honorary society -- commit to a service project, they live up to the BSA motto of "Be Prepared," and hit the ground running.
The first 202 of nearly 2,000 Arrowmen, as members of the society are known, arrived in Fayette County this week to spend July building trails in the New River Gorge National River area. By the end of their first two days of work, they had built more than 7,000 feet of new trail in the Gorge's Craig Branch area near Kaymoor Top.
By the end of July, they intend to complete nearly 20 miles of new stacked-loop biking and hiking trails in the Craig Branch and Garden Ground areas, in addition to removing and rehabilitating 12 miles of illegal ATV trails and clearing away four acres of invasive multiflora rose.
"We have 22 crews of eight or nine people each working here now, and each crew averages about 150 feet of new trail per day," said Mitch Andrews, an Order of the Arrow section leader from Willoughby Hills, Ohio.
The stacked loop trails the Arrowmen are building are a series of interconnected looping pathways that give hikers and bikers numerous options in terrain type, length and degree of difficulty. The trails were plotted and marked with tape earlier in the year by personnel from the International Mountain Biking Association.
Three weeks ago, an instructor corps consisting of several dozen nominally paid Scouts arrived in Fayette County to receive training in crew leadership and trail building in the Gorge.
The 70,000-acre New River Gorge National River area adjoins the 10,600-acre Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, BSA's newest national high-adventure base and the permanent home of the National Scout Jamboree.
The Order of the Arrow has a long history of working on trail-building projects in national parks, national forests and at BSA high adventure camps across the nation, according to Jonathon Hillis, the national chief of the Order of the Arrow, who was among those building trail on Wednesday.
With the Summit taking shape so close to the National Park Service-administered New River Gorge, and with the NPS "trying to get youth more involved in parks and outdoor activity, there's no better place than here to be working this summer," said Hillis.
Hillis, a rising junior at Carlton College in Northfield, Minn., said Order of the Arrow volunteers range in age from 14 to 21, and are coming from as far away as Alaska and Florida to work on the New River Gorge trails.
"They could be doing anything else this summer, but they chose to come here, at their own expense, because they believe in this project," he said."