The Boy Scout Slogan is "Do a Good Turn Daily," and a small army of Scouts is doing a month's worth of good turns at New River Gorge National River. Visitors will enjoy the results of their efforts on miles of trails for years to come.
The project, known as SummitCorps 2011, runs for the entire month of July at the West Virginia park. Some 1400 Boy Scouts between the ages of 14 and 21 will be volunteering their time and energy to construct and improve trails within the park.
The volunteers are members of The Order of the Arrow, the Boy Scout’s National Honor Society. During the month-long effort, they are constructing 16 miles of completely new trails, rehabilitating another 12 miles of existing trails, and removing invasive plants.
It's an impressive logistical effort. Each week, a new group of 250 to 350 Scouts arrive from all across the county to participate in one of the largest youth service projects in national park history. Each boy raised $250 to participate in the event, plus travel costs, and will spend 32 hours working in the park.
“I feel that it’s a lot of fun giving back to the community, and the best part is getting to know Arrowmen from across the nation while building a trail and making a difference to the National Park Service,” said Dan Dick, national vice chief for the Order of the Arrow.
“The National Park Service is extremely proud to be working with our longstanding partners at the Boy Scouts of America,” said Don Striker, the park’s superintendent. “This project will save taxpayers over $1 million, as the Boy Scouts clearly demonstrate their leadership in developing youth who understand the importance of community service and the shared stewardship of our national parks. It's remarkable that these boys are paying money to come and provide 32 hours of cheerful service to the park."
The Order of the Arrow (OA) was formed in 1915, one year before the National Park Service was established, and by 1925 the organization was sponsoring trail building projects in Yellowstone National Park. In the 1920s and 30s, Glacier, Yosemite, Mount Rainier and Crater Lakes all hosted Arrow Corps trail builders.
A park spokesman notes, "New River Gorge National River is delighted that the Order of the Arrow selected this park to renew their commitment to trail building in national parks. This project is the culmination of more than a year of planning, and is being managed by a joint OA/NPS incident command team that includes youth members in key roles."
This is expected to be the first of many such partnership projects at the park. The Boy Scouts of America are committed to future service projects in the park and the surrounding community as they establish the new home of the Jamboree and a High Adventure Camp adjacent to park lands at New River Gorge.