March 23, 2012
New state Boy Scout compound gets lawmaker help
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's huge new Boy Scouts adventure camp stands to benefit from the recent legislative session, after Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed four bills unanimously passed by lawmakers to help the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.

But an additional measure, proposed to allow outside groups to lease the tax-exempt Summit, did not emerge before the session ended March 10. Requiring voters to amend the state constitution, the proposal is slated for additional study by lawmakers.

The 10,600-acre complex in Fayette and Raleigh counties will become the permanent home starting next year of the national Scout jamboree, a multi-day event that draws around 40,000 scouts from across the country. It will also host the 2019 World Jamboree, marking that event's first return to the U.S. in more than 50 years.

One bill passed this session will exempt construction materials from sales taxes as contractors develop the Summit's array of venues. Plans call for rock climbing walls, a skateboard park and an arena that can seat up to 80,000 people, among other features.

The Boy Scouts of America is already exempt from the sales tax, as a nonprofit youth organization, and the bill extends that to its contractors. Noting that the scouts expect to invest $400 million over four years in the Summit, state tax officials estimate the exemption would save the contractors between $5 million and $10 million in materials costs during that time.

Tomblin proposed two of the other successful measures. They extend legal waivers to ensure the reserve can attract volunteer medical professionals and can borrow needed bus drivers from other county school systems. The 2013 jamboree will include a day of community service, requiring the scouts to travel to and from the reserve.

The remaining issue would create a public corporation with a nine-member advisory board to buy, renovate and maintain the nearby historic railroad station at Prince. The Amtrak stop closest to the reserve, the station was considered an architectural gem when it was built in the 1940s. Citing travel patterns at a Boy Scout facility in New Mexico, supporters of this bill predict that thousands of scouts and their families attending the Summit will rely on rail.

"We continue to be overwhelmed by the leadership and the assistance provided by both House of the Legislature and the governor, and in particular the local Fayette County and other delegations from around the Summit,'' said Steve McGowan, a leading volunteer of the summit who also represents it on legal matters as a lawyer.

The reserve will also offer world-class mountain bike trails and ziplines, while accommodating 40,000 campers, officials there say. Besides eventually hosting a Boy Scout high adventure program, officials hope to lease its facilities to outside groups. But the necessary measure awaits further review by lawmakers.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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