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Community service in W.Va. heat 'cool' for Northwest Scouts

PRINCE, W.Va. -- More than 300 Boy Scouts, most of them from the relatively cool climes of the Pacific Northwest, took time off from activities Friday at the National Scout Jamboree to spend a steamy day building wheelchair-accessible trails, picnic sites and other amenities deep in the New River Gorge.

"Probably none of you have worked in such high humidity before," Scoutmaster Jeff Person of Richland, Wash., told Scouts in Troop B130, just before work began near the Glade Creek Trailhead. "Remember that we've got all day, so pace yourself -- and drink a lot of water. This is a great thing you're doing, so have fun with it!"

Washington and Oregon Scouts from Troop B130 installed plastic pavers along a trail leading from a parking lot to an information kiosk, a pair of wheelchair-accessible picnic tables and a newly improved footbridge over Glade Creek that accommodates wheelchair-using anglers. After the circular plastic forms were installed and connected, Scouts filled them with hundreds of buckets full of pea-size gravel.

While the temperature was undeniably hot, "It's cool to be able to help out people with disabilities," said Scout Liam Bradley of Camas, Wash., as he sanded newly installed rails on the bridge/fishing site over Glade Creek, a popular trout stream. "To me, it's important that everybody should be able to see places like this in their lifetime."

Also involved in the sanding project was Nick Perry of Amboy, Wash., who has been working on a disabilities-awareness merit badge at the Jamboree.

"It really opened my eyes to the situations a lot of people face," Perry said of his merit badge work. "I'm glad to be doing something that can help."

Among those taking part in a bucket brigade to bring gravel to the 110-foot trail connecting the bridge to the parking area was Scout Taylor Scanlon of Hermiston, Ore. Scanlon, who has cerebral palsy, used his electric wheelchair to haul 5-gallon buckets of gravel to fellow Scouts, who dumped them in the pavers.

"It's been good -- a lot of fun," Scanlon said of his time at the Jamboree. After listening to a presentation by Boy Scout disability officials before the start of work on Friday, Scanlon said he was interested in setting up a website "where people with disabilities can go and review accessible areas."

Patrick Maloney of Medford, Ore., said the Scouts' volunteer workday began at 5 a.m., with a wake-up call and an early breakfast, before boarding buses for the 15-mile drive from the Jamboree site in Glen Jean to the National Park Service's Glade Creek recreation area.

"The Jamboree's been phenomenal," he said. "All the activities are more than satisfactory, and everything is ready when you want it to be. It's really well planned and organized. But I enjoy getting out and doing this kind of work, too."

The 40,000 Scouts attending the Jamboree are donating more than 300,000 hours of community service over a five-day period to projects in nine West Virginia counties as part of their Reaching for the Summit Community Service Initiative. It is the largest community-service project of its kind in U.S. history.

Volunteer work being done by the Scouts in the New River Gorge National River "will help us get some of the things that we've planned to get done sooner than initially expected," said National Park Service Ranger Leah Perkowski-Sisk. "This whole area will benefit from the work the Scouts are doing."

Other work being done by Scouts in the Glade Creek area of the Gorge includes building 300 feet of accessible trail leading from the Glade Creek Trailhead parking lot to a scenic pool. Scouts also are helping to enlarge and refurbish an existing handicap-accessible campsite and are building an accessible picnic area near the New River boat launch ramp near the mouth of Glade Creek.

At the launch ramp, a stair-stepped series of rock and concrete transfer seats is being installed to allow those with leg disabilities to gradually lower themselves to river level and self-board boats and rafts.

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


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