Balancing Nature And Commerce In The New River Gorge Region
New River Gorge bridge, West Virginia. Photo by Ed Rehbein
At A Glance
- In 2013 the New River Gorge region of West Virginia will become the permanent home of the Boy Scout Jamboree, a 10-day event that will bring 350,000 visitors.
- Community leaders recognized the need to improve infrastructure and sustainable tourism while also preserving the beauty and character of their communities.
- The Fund's Conservation Leadership Network was asked to lead a 3-day workshop for business leaders, elected officials, and public land managers.
- The workshop generated action plans to be completed by 2013 and with teams now in place, the New River Gorge area is poised to become a national model for balancing nature and commerce.
In October 2010, the Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network brought together local business leaders, elected officials and public land managers for a three-day workshop to discuss changes that are coming to West Virginia’s New River Gorge region. As the new host of the Boy Scout Jamboree, the region will enjoy an economic boon, but the communities face a tough challenge: can they develop the necessary infrastructure and benefit economically from the event while retaining their rural character and natural landscapes?
New Site For The Boy Scout Jamboree
In 2013 the New River Gorge region of West Virginia will become the permanent home of the Boy Scout Jamboree. Held in July, the 10-day event will bring an estimated 50,000 Boys Scouts and 300,000 visitors to the region. The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a 10,600-acre complex in the Glen Jean-Mount Hope area is the new Jamboree site and will serve as a summer camp for more than 48,000 scouts each year.
The mostly undeveloped rural New River Gorge region is an ideal destination for rafters, hikers, rock climbers and mountain bikers. The beautiful landscape adds to the character and charm of the small, historic towns along the river.
The local response to the Jamboree has been positive, but 350,000 visitors are a lot for any region to accommodate. Community leaders recognized the need to improve local infrastructure and sustainable tourism while also preserving the natural beauty and character of their communities. The “Reaching the Summit” steering committee was formed to determine the best way to approach the changes that will inevitably happen due to so many visitors.
In October 2010, at the invitation of the steering committee, the Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network convened the workshop. More than 55 people participated in the “Reaching the Summit: Balancing Nature and Commerce in the New River Gorge Region” workshop, including representatives from the Boy Scouts of America, the National Park Service, the West Virginia State Park Service, the West Virginia Division of Tourism and the Jobs Foundation, to name just a few.
The workshop not only addressed community leaders’ concerns but also generated various action plans to be completed by 2013. The action plans focus on five kinds of community assets: commercial, natural, recreational, infrastructure, and cultural. These plans are designed to improve the quality of life throughout the New River Gorge region, making the most of this opportunity to grow thoughtfully.
Already community leaders are getting busy. To date, construction at the main Jamboree site has employed 150 workers and invested more than $20 million in West Virginia contractors. The next phase of the project could create more than 600 local jobs and generate $30 million in income. With the action plans and teams now in place, the New River Gorge area is poised to become a national model for balancing commerce and nature.