A place of their own
GLEN JEAN, W.Va. -- Tuesday's opening day for the National Scout Jamboree was a dream come true for National Jamboree President Larry Pritchard and other Boy Scouts of America executives.
For the first time, the Boy Scouts are hosting their once-every-four-year Jamboree on their own land.
"That's a big deal because now we can decide what we do and how we do it and where we do it," Pritchard told a group of reporters. "And I think you'll agree that this facility is pretty special."
The 10-day event kicked off with an opening ceremony and a time capsule ceremony Tuesday on the sprawling 10,600-acre Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in the New River Gorge.
Around 40,000 Scouts and Scout leaders arrived on the property Monday, covering the land in colorful tent cities.
Pritchard called it a great day for the Boy Scouts.
"It's goose bumps, it's breathtaking," he said. "You never get tired of seeing that. Watching everyone come in. ... It's pretty neat to watch a city grow from zero to 40,000 in 12 hours."
Previous Jamborees had been held at Fort A.P. Hill, a U.S. Army camp near Bowling Green in Virginia.
Statues immortalizing 11 key players who helped make the Summit a reality can be found around the property. They are the creation of Arizona sculptor Tom White. The statutes depict donor and Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice, Justice's son, James Justice Jr. and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., among others.
Stephen Bechtel Jr., the namesake for the Summit who started the fundraising campaign for the site with a $50 million donation, applauded West Virginia's state government for its role in getting the Boy Scouts to the reserve.
"I think West Virginia has been very helpful to the Boy Scouts, making the arrangements for the property and permitting the use of it."
Bechtel, a former Boy Scout, called the BSA the premiere organization for youth.
"I got an awful lot out of it," Bechtel said. "I learned a lot. I was blessed with a mother and a dad who were very good at teaching me values, but Boy Scouts helped me solidify it."
This Jamboree is Boy Scout Peter Schmidt's third trip to West Virginia. He's been to the state once for a service trip and once for a rafting trip, and both times with the Boy Scouts.
Schmidt, who is both an Eagle Scout and an Able Sea Scout, said he was looking forward to the high-adventure activities at the Bechtel Summit.
"This is so much more than you ever would have asked for," Schmidt said of the National Scout Reserve. "It's huge. It's kind of like Scouting paradise here."
West Virginia-based country group Taylor Made sang during the opening ceremony, held at the Reserve's AT&T Summit Stadium.
Nico Kehn, 15, of Cary, N.C., is at the Bechtel Reserve for his first Jamboree.
Like many of the Scouts, Kehn looked forward to mountain biking, zip lining and other high-adventure activities in the week to come.
Scouts will have the opportunity to raft the New River, shoot guns, ride mountain bikes, skateboard and rock climb, among other activities.
"It's really, really big and there's a whole lot of people," Kehn said. "It looks really nice."
Reach Lori Kersey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1240.