CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The majestic beauty of aged mountains made this state a natural location for one of the world's largest Boy Scout operations. The $400 million National Jamboree Center and high adventure camp in Fayette County is becoming a superb facet of West Virginia tourism.
Next year, the 10-day U.S. jamboree is expected to draw 40,000 scouts, who will perform 300,000 hours of community service while they enjoy camping, hiking, whitewatering, rock-climbing and other wilderness fun along the New River Gorge. Multitudes of parents and other visitors will accompany the extravaganza. Future jamborees and other scouting activity will continue bringing action to the hills afterward.
Scouting is so worthy, beneficial and healthy that important benefactors have given generously to the West Virginia project. The Bechtel and Scott foundations launched the project with gifts of $50 million and $25 million. Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier resort and a Sunday Gazette-Mail West Virginian of the Year, added $25 million. CONSOL Energy gave $15 million. Buckskin Council scouts, headquartered in Charleston, have raised $285,000. Etc.
"This is one of the greatest development projects ever to hit the state," says Dr. Steven Eshenaur, West Virginia Army National Guard surgeon and head of 600 medical volunteers for the Scout camp. "How can you not be excited about all this, what we're doing for the youth and kids of America?"
Amid the buoyant buzz, a shadow from the past afflicted the Boy Scouts of America last week. The Los Angeles Times said long-hidden files show that, over the decades, some scout leaders molested boys in their troops, and the organization concealed the problem. Around 50 lawsuits by abused youths slowly forced disclosure of the secret files.
Previously, The Washington Times reported that 1,151 scouts had accused leaders of molestation during a 19-year period, and 350 leaders were banned for sexual acts. A dozen scoutmasters went to prison. The main Times reporter, Patrick Boyle, outlined the problem in a book, "Scout's Honor: Sexual Abuse in America's Most Trusted Institution."
Apparently, in the past, a few molesters became scout volunteers to gain access to vulnerable boys. To stop this menace, the BSA launched a Youth Protection Plan in 2010, requiring criminal background checks of all volunteers and mandating strict police reporting. The rules require two adult leaders to work together when a tenting scout needs medical care in the night. Last week, after the newspaper disclosure, BSA chief Wayne Brock posted an open letter assuring parents that strict safeguards now shield Boy Scouts.
With 4 million boys in its ranks, the BSA is a mammoth movement -- and it's now entwined greatly with West Virginia. We hope the Youth Protection Plan purges any remaining traces of the old blight. This state's future as a major hub of scouting is bright. Nothing should hinder this glowing prospect. The boys need outdoor nurture in the rugged Appalachians -- and West Virginia is enhanced by hosting this noble activity.