Editorial: New Scout reserve offers opportunity to Tri-State
West Virginia scored a coup when it convinced the Boy Scouts of America to locate its new permanent home for the annual National Scout Jamboree within the state's borders rather than in one of the 27 other states seeking the project.
Now, as work crews continue the massive undertaking of preparing the new Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in southern West Virginia for the 2013 Jamboree next July, organizations in the Tri-State have the opportunity to determine how they can play a role in making the most of this new state attraction.
The Summit reserve will be the Boy Scouts' fourth high adventure camp and is touted as "beginning the next century of Scouting." It will cover 10,600 acres near the town of Mount Hope and nestled in just west of the New River Gorge National River Area, which is itself a huge drawing card for tourists seeking rugged outdoor activities.
While it's not known exactly the full impact the reserve will have on bringing visitors to the state on a year-round basis, it's clear that during the annual Jamboree well more than 40,000 Scouts and other people from around the country will descend on West Virginia.
Many of them coming from the west likely will be passing through the Huntington region. Steve McGowan, a Charleston attorney who headed up the governor's task force that brought the reserve to West Virginia, said up to 25 or 30 percent of those Jamboree attendees could be traveling on I-64 through the region. That equates to 10,000 or more people who will have the opportunity to see the Tri-State.
There are likely to be some direct opportunities for businesses, especially gas stations and restaurants located along the interstate as well as perhaps some hotels, to benefit from some of these additional travelers. But since the reserve is two hours away, that means the direct economic impact to the region is unlikely to be great in the short-term. This area probably is too close to the reserve to be a major stopping point for its visitors and too far away to receive larger benefits.
But the opportunity to make a good impression -- and let the travelers to the Jamboree know what the region offers -- will certainly be there.
Due to its location, Huntington will represent the western gateway to the state for these visitors. For those who stop to eat or fill up their cars' gas tanks, a welcoming attitude should be one of the top priorities for those in the hospitality industry.
Also important will be sharing information about the region -- on billboards and in displays within restaurants and gas stations, for example -- and its many nearby attractions.
If people in Huntington and elsewhere in the state throw out the welcome mat in a big way, these travelers may decide West Virginia is worthy of a return visit. And that will mean a further boost to the entire state, including the Huntington area.