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Adventure industry helps Scouts plan Summit

Courtesy photo
Rob Cocquyt of Gravity Logic, a Canadian mountain bike and BMX course design firm, test rides a section of a new BMX course at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County.

MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. -- Some of the world's top consultants and designers are involved in planning venues for adventure activities taking shape at the Boy Scouts of America's new Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County.  

Aaron Spohn, who partnered with ESPN to develop the X Games and design and build competition courses for the extreme sports series, is in charge of conceptual design for the Summit's skateboard and BMX bike courses. His California-based Spohn Ranch design firm has been planning and building skateboard parks since the late 1980s.

Both indoor and outdoor parks, making use of progressive terrain features and foam pits, are being planned. They will accommodate skateboarders of all skill levels.

Gravity Logic, a Whistler, British Columbia, firm that designs mountain bike and BMX courses around the world, has completed a demonstration BMX "pump" course -- a packed-earth loop track with an endless series of jumps -- at the Summit. A downhill mountain bike "flow" trail, with nearly 100 turns, is partially complete. A freestyle BMX course and miles of additional mountain bike trails are planned.

Boulder, Colo., based Eldorado Climbing Walls is designing climbing walls and towers at Summit Bechtel Reserve.

While the New River Gorge is a natural climbing mecca, it is not able to accommodate the demands of the 50,000 or so Boy Scouts expected for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree and future Jamborees. The largest group climbing sites in the New River Gorge National River allow no more than 12 climbers at a time. Potential climbing surfaces that exist within the 10,600-acre Summit Bechtel Reserve would be subject to intensive wear, and are not capable of meeting the demands of tens of thousands of campers.

"The New River Gorge is a great and beautiful place, but it doesn't necessarily have the types of routes for our numbers and to teach what we want to teach," said Eldorado Climbing Walls vice president Steve Holmes in a Summit Bechtel blog post. "We are building enough climbing walls at the Summit to make it self-contained without getting out into the Gorge."

The artificial climbing walls being planned for the Boy Scout facility are designed to look and even feel like the local sandstone, and will contain natural-looking features. Some of the walls will be built into real, reinforced cliffs.

When Eldorado's wall and tower installations are complete, up to 1,400 scouts at a time will be able to experience bouldering and roped climbing at the Summit.

Eldorado's walls have been installed at a number of universities across the nation. NASA recently used its climbing panels in an underwater experiment off the coast of Florida to train for the possible exploration of near-Earth asteroids in a low-gravity environment.

Bonsai Design, the New Zealand-based firm that designed TreeTops Canopy Tour at Adventures on the Gorge near Fayetteville and the high-speed zipline at Burning Rock Resort near Tams, is helping the Summit plan and build six miles of ziplines. One demonstration zipline is nearly complete.

A vast shooting sports and archery range complex, including a sporting clays course capable of handling 3,300 shooters every four hours, is being planned in a 60-acre section of the scouting reserve. Mike Davey, founder and president of The Shooting Academy in Phoenix, Ariz., is in charge of its design.

Recent projects by Davey and his firm include The Shooting Academy at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania and the Abu Dhabi International Shooting Club in the United Arab Emirates.

"What we're doing here is taking that same type of design work, but make it the best there is around," Davey said on a Summit blog posting.

The Summit range will also be the biggest around. While most of the larger sporting clay ranges have 24 to 36 shooting stations, there will be 150 to 160 at the Summit. There will also be dynamic, or tactical, target shooting ranges and 3-D courses.

By using the ranges, Scouts attending Jamborees will be able to earn shooting sports and archery merit badges.

Scouting adventure activities will be offered at six high-adventure bases at the Summit: Aquatics, climbing, mountain biking, skateboarding-BMX, shooting sports-archery and ziplines-canopy tours. The aquatics base will include Scuba in four Olympic-sized portable pools that will be set up on the property, plus kayaking, paddle-boarding, dragon boats and a water obstacle course, all taking place on a series of lakes being built at the Summit.

"This will be the first jamboree where scouts can reserve a space in curriculum-based adventure activities," said Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations at the Summit. "This will allow the scouts to spend more time in a specific activity to more intensely develop their skills. Reservations will be available to registered participants online. Unscheduled adventure activities will also be available, so people can just walk up and try something."

After the 2013 National Jamboree is over, the plan is to make many of the adventure activities available to the public to sample, on demonstration courses near Summit Center, the reserve's 100-acre core area, Hartley said.

The Summit will have five camping villages for scouts and one for adults.  Each village will be made up of four sub-camps that can accommodate up to 2,000 campers each.

Once at the Summit, scouts will travel between their camping villages and high-adventure bases on foot. Pains have been taken in the planning process to eliminate the need for vehicle use within the facility.

The 700-foot-long, nine-story high Consol Energy Wing Tip Bridge will cross a ravine and connect the reserve's central activity area to the camping villages and high-adventure bases on the eastern side of the tract. In some cases, the huge pedestrian bridge will turn what would have been a 45-minute hike into a two-minute walk.

From the span, which will have three separate walkways, Scouts will get a birds-eye view of the Summit's ziplines and mountain biking trails. A $15 million donation to the Summit by Consol Energy is paying for the bridge's construction.

While the Summit encompasses 10,600 acres of land on Garden Ground Mountain and its environs, its development footprint takes in only 1,270 acres, leaving an abundance of land for backcountry activities.

Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelhammer@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.

 


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