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Boy Scouts from the Buckskin Council in southern West Virginia will have the unique opportunity to camp for free in designated state parks. The council represents scouts in 40 counties across the south of West Virginia, as well as in neighboring states Ohio, Virginia and Kentucky.
In exchange, West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Brett McMillion said scouts will complete service projects in the parks such as trail maintenance. He said scouts have already helped with the newest Almost Heaven swing at Pipestem Resort State Park.
“Some of the more popular projects will relate to trails, whether it be new trail construction, upgrades to existing or even basic maintenance on trails,” McMillion said. “There will likely be some facility upgrades or renovations, such as painting, and we won’t get into any full blown construction projects, but they’ll really be able to do a variety of items.”
McMillion said scouts can be a resource for smaller parks that may not have the bigger budgets. He said the DNR is already in contact with other scout councils from across West Virginia to expand the program.
“We’re early into this program, but I see a lot of potential growing, I think there’s some badge opportunities,” McMillion said. “The scouts will be able to work with our naturalist or nature programming. Our state park system have absolutely opened their arms to this project, and it’ll give the scouts opportunities to learn more about our West Virginia state parks.”
Jeffrey Purdy is the scout executive for the Buckskin Council of the Boy Scouts of America. He said the current agreement is for Pipestem and North Bend parks, but it could be expanded to other state parks.
“The idea is that scouts would go to the park for the weekend, perhaps spend the weekend camp out, they may do a service project for the park, which is a part of the scouting program, doing service for others,” Purdy said. “Then the parks can also provide some program opportunities.”
The Boy Scouts own many private camps across West Virginia, but Purdy said they are hard to maintain.
“At the same time, the state does an excellent job of maintaining their state parks,” he said. “Those are well-maintained outdoor facilities available for the public. They’re looking for people to work in the park system, and people with scouting backgrounds, young people would be good candidates because of their knowledge and experience in the outdoors.”
McMillion also expressed a desire to see scouts develop through the burgeoning program into the state’s future parks leadership.