CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — From pulling weeds to building bat houses and walking trails, thousands of Boy Scouts fanned out across southern West Virginia this week to perform community service projects.
The Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia coordinated 350 projects for 30,000 Scouts attending the National Jamboree.
The Scouts sometimes endured long bus rides on unfamiliar hilly terrain, working in 90-degree heat to help rural communities and learn about the history of the area.
The projects were in nine counties surrounding the Summit: Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming.
"The Boy Scouts of America is proud to give back to the state of West Virginia, and we hope these service projects make a lasting impact in the community," said national Jamboree director Larry Pritchard.
A group of 36 Scouts and four adult leaders from Troop B343 in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., helped the town of Alderson in Greenbrier County get started on a community walking trail. The Scouts dug through a 100-foot section of compacted shale, stone, weeds and roots to clear the way for the path.
The Scouts were told that many of the town's residents are retired and that the project was the idea of a man who recently died.
"It's got some definite meaning to the folks there in town," said Scoutmaster Glen Traylor.
The project will take two years to complete, and Taylor's group became so attached that it plans to return after the Jamboree.
"They've invited us to come back up there and do that," Traylor said. "We'll work on it again, to keep up with it and follow through."
Members of the Oklahoma City-based Last Frontier Council helped build a new trail and constructed a dozen benches that will be placed along the path at the Twin Branch Adventure Facility in McDowell County. The 36 Scouts and four adults from Last Frontier were joined by several other busloads of Scouts from other states.
Often the Scouts couldn't recount the names of the highways or the towns they traveled through.
What they took away was the beauty of the landscape and the satisfaction that they helped someone.
"All of the Scouts, as soon as they got there, they were hands-on ready to help out," said Conner Copeland, 15, a Last Frontier Eagle Scout. "We knew as soon as we walked in that it needed a lot of work. When we walked out, we all knew we did a lot to change it and made the trail look a lot better."
There was too much brush at Brushfork Elementary School in Bluefield, so 70 Scouts from Montana went to work pulling and bagging weeds from around fences and a creek and moving cut tree branches to a burn pile. They also helped rearrange furniture to help the school get ready for the start of classes in a few weeks.
Senior youth leader Alex Schofield, 17, cited one of the mottos of his membership in the Scouts' National Honor Society, the Order of the Arrow.
"That was part of this, cheerfully serving the community," he said. "It was nice just to help them out with what they needed."
Chris Kehrer was among a group of Scouts from Michigan's Great Lakes Council that helped build 22 bat houses at a wood shop in Summers County.
"We loved it," Kehrer said. "That's what the Boy Scouts is about, to do a little work and have some fun."
Kehrer said his group was told about white nose syndrome, a disease that has killed millions of bats in caves and mines where they hibernate. It's caused by a fungus first spotted in New York seven years ago that has since spread to 19 states and four Canadian provinces.
"I learned a lot about the bats," said Chris Kehrer. "What the West Virginians are trying to do is construct these bat houses and giving these bats a place to live where they're not going to contract this disease that kills them."
The National Parks Service in the New River Gorge was involved in a project to improve trail access for visitors. Disabled Scouts assisted troops on Friday building accessible fishing, camping, parking and picnic areas at Glade Creek.
And West Virginia University football players joined Scouts and members of a sports camp in Nicholas County for projects involving sustainability, infrastructure, arts and education and wellness.
"This is more than our team coming together to lend a hand for a really worthwhile project," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said in a statement. "This is something we will all look back on one day and say how proud we were to be a part of it all."