GLEN JEAN, W.Va. - The view from West Virginia's new "Summit" is nothing but wild and wonderful for the Boy Scouts of America.
The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve is taking shape in West Virginia's New River Gorge region and is providing a new direction for Scouts across the country. The reserve is set to open in July, when it will host its first National Boy Scout Jamboree.
About 50,000 Scouts and Scout leaders are expected to attend that event.
Boy Scout officials believe the 10,600-acre camp in Fayette County, near the towns of Glen Jean and Mount Hope will serve as home for future Jamborees. There's even a good chance the venue will host the 2019 World Scout Jamboree.
"This is the greatest project ever of its kind. It will be not only a great camp but a great laboratory that will offer so many teaching opportunities," retired Scout Chief Executive Bob Mazzuca said. "We're only limited by our own imaginations and maybe a few dollars. There are limitless possibilities."
One of the main features at The Summit will be a 782-foot suspension bridge.
The bridge is built of steel and lumber from local black locust trees. It features a catwalk below the pedestrian deck, so boys can walk across the bridge, and up its towers and down its side cables.
The span also will have three viewing platforms: two on top of the towers and one below the main deck.
To date, the Boy Scouts of America have received donations exceeding $200 million for the West Virginia camp.
The Summit will be the fourth national high adventure camp owned and operated by the Boy Scouts. Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M., with its 137,000 acres of rugged mountain trails, will always be the crown jewel of Boy Scout camps.
The Summit Reserve will compliment Philmont and serve as a "jewel of its own."
Plans for the Summit began in 2007, when Scout leaders began searching for a new home for the national jamboree. After reviewing more than 80 sites in 28 states, leaders selected the Summit in 2009.
One of the Summit's main selling points is its location adjacent to the 70,000-acre New River Gorge National River. Scouts will have access to the area during events.
The camp is named after the Bechtel family, as the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation and the Stephen Bechtel Fund gave a $50 million donation to purchase the property, the largest gift in the history of the Boy Scouts of America. Stephen Bechtel, a Distinguished Eagle Scout, has served as chairman emeritus of a private investment firm, chairman of the Bechtel Corp. and has been appointed to various committees and commissions by three presidents.