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What's going on at the Summit?

MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. -- It didn't take a lot of arm-twisting to get a half-dozen members of a Spohn Ranch Skateparks construction crew to break out their boards and spend a few minutes showing off their newest and biggest creation to a group of visitors to the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

The construction crew is putting the finishing touches to more than 100,000 square feet of skating terrain at one of 11 adventure areas at the massive 10,600-acre Boy Scout reserve, which opens July 15. That's when 40,000 Scouts and their leaders will converge on the New River Gorge for the 2013 National Scout Jamboree. The Summit will be the permanent home of the jamboree.

Here, during the 10-day jamboree, Boy Scouts from across the nation will be able to try their hands at a wide variety of outdoor activities in world-class venues.

"We build what we enjoy riding, as well," said Mike Bradford, the chief operating officer of the Los Angeles-based construction company. "What we're creating here is something we know the kids are going to enjoy skating. That's the greatest part about our job."

The Park Adventure Area at Summit Bechtel Reserve, for instance, is home of the world's second-largest outdoor skate park, featuring six distinct areas with bowls, ramps and rails for riders of all skill levels.

At the nearby Trax Adventure Area, the world's second-largest BMX facility awaits Scouts of every skill level, with more than 273,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor features, including downhill, pump, table-top, freestyle, race and dual-slalom courses.

On Sunday, more than 1,200 area residents were invited to take part in a driving tour of the massive Boy Scout facility to see what has taken shape since construction began at the site three years ago. Even the tour route was big, covering a 14-mile loop through the reserve.

To help plan Sunday's event, "we talked to the people at Oglebay Park in Wheeling, who have a lot of experience with people taking driving tours to see the annual Christmas lights display," said Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations for the Summit Bechtel Reserve.

"With less than 60 days to go until the Summit opens and the jamboree begins, we are thrilled for the community to see our progress and share this experience with them," Hartley said. "Until recently, there's been so much heavy construction going on that it hasn't been safe or practical to give people a peek behind the curtain to see what's been going on at the Summit."

Among other sites visited during Sunday's tour was The Rocks Adventure Area - the world's largest man-made outdoor climbing area, featuring 125 climbing walls, 100 bouldering stations and 45 rappelling venues. Made from concrete shot onto metal frames, the cliff segments at The Rocks were designed to resemble the sandstone climbing surfaces found in the New River Gorge, right down to the pigments used to stain the faux rock walls.

Other adventure areas nearing completion at the Summit include The Zip, with more than 5 miles of zip lines, including five parallel 3,500-foot lines. For mountain bikers, the Low Gear and High Gear adventure areas offer a total of 36 miles of trails, ranging from downhill and cross-country routes to dual slalom and jump courses.

The Bows archery adventure center ranks third in the world in shooting opportunities, with 60 static shooting stations, 36 sporting stations, 10 long-distance stations, and 10 trap-shooting type stations. For shooting sports, The Barrels provides more than 200 unique rifle, pistol and shotgun options, making it also the world's third-largest venue of its kind.

Four Olympic size above-ground pools soon will be installed atop concrete pads at The Pools Adventure Area, home base for swimming and scuba activities.

More than 100 miles of utilities have been installed underground at Summit Bechtel. Five small cellphone towers have been installed at the reserve's five base camp areas, and Scouts will have access to wi-fi, and 3-G and 4-G phone service.

While Summitt Bechtel encompasses nearly 14 square miles of land, only a small portion of the property is being developed.

"We're trying to keep our footprint as small as possible, and we're trying to limit it to areas that have already been disturbed by mining and timbering," said Allison Schapker, director of design and sustainability for Trinity Works, Summitt Bechtel's design firm.

Of the scouting reserve's 10,600 acres, 1,200 are being developed to accommodate national jamboree activities, and 100 are being developed for the Scott Summit Center, its year-round visitor-friendly area where a variety of outdoor activities can be sampled. Scott Summit Center is also the home of AT&T Summit Stadium, a 70,000-seat amphitheater with three stages, where shows and concerts will be hosted during the upcoming jamboree.

Nearly all the rest of the property will be left as is, including a 1,600-acre section of creeks and wetlands adjacent to National Park Service land that is being placed in a conservation easement.

There are six base camps for Scouts, each accommodating between 7,000 and 8,000 campers. At the camps, gray water from showers and sinks will be recycled for use in toilets, reducing per-person water use from 30 gallons a day to about eight, Schapker said.

Buffer strips of man-made wetlands ring the reserve's four artificial lakes to filter sediment from entering the ponds.

More than 1,000 West Virginians have helped with construction of the Summit, which will become the Boy Scouts of America's fourth high-adventure base when it is not serving as national jamboree headquarters. In 2019, the Fayette County site will host Scouting's World Jamboree.

"We've been assured by our contractors that everything will be completed on schedule," Hartley said. "It will probably include some seven-day weeks and some working at night, but we'll be ready for the Scouts on July 15."

"It's pretty exciting to have a permanent home for our national jamboree," said Renee Fairrer, public relations manager for the BSA, "but our main goal right now is to make sure every one of the 40,000 kids who come here for the 2013 jamboree have the time of their life."

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


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