Sunday, August 11, 2013

My 2013 National Scout Jamboree Experience

The 2013 National Scout Jamboree was held this year for the very first time at the Bechtel Family Summit
and I had the great privilege to attend as an Assistant Scoutmaster for Last Frontier Council Troop C137. The event ended just a few weeks ago and I figure this is the best time to write a few of my thoughts now while it all fresh on my mind.

First the positives:

The Summit is amazing!

 I have followed the development of the Summit for several years now including reading articles, watching videos etc. Nothing however can match seeing the property in person and to be honest I do not think any other method would work to understand it.

One other visitor described it as “Disney World for Scouts”. This was a reference to not just the number of activities but just a equally a reference to the build quality of everything.

Every single facility at the Summit is above world class. I do not think that you would fine better climbing, zip lining, shooting, BMX, Skateboarding, pool scuba diving, canopy touring, archery or anything built for youth anywhere in the world yet alone all in one location.

Scouting dreamed big with the finest of everything including the world’s largest skate park and zip lines to blow the mind.

Technology is everywhere thanks to the generosity of AT&T with high speed WiFi located all over the property. Our campsite had a WiFi tower located just yards away and it seemed to be even in the remotest of locations. This allowed me to be connected to social media to share all the fun as things were in progress through Facebook, instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

No detail of the property has been ignored up to the architectural marvels of the sustainability tree house and Consul Energy Bridge down to the beautiful walkways, steps, native grass planting, grey water systems and even the wheat planted along the drives into camp adding visual effect.

The place is truly a marvel and should be considered the ultimate Scouting and youth organization playground. 

Now the deltas:

This place is freakin’ huge!  The camps were very spread out with every walk seemingly uphill all the time with rain and heat. I was feeling a little sorry for myself into a 45 minute hike to shooting sports one day until I met a Scout that had already been traveling for 90 minutes. We both still had at least another 20 minutes to go. I know I walked for at least 10 miles each day and ended the week with blisters on top of my blisters.

This would not have been so bad if it were not for the 90 degree temperatures and high humidity. Worst of all, all the trails were constructed with not so finely crushed rock that tended to bruise the bottom of your feet unless you were hiking with very stiff soled boots. Foot issues were a real problem for many people I met.  I know there were Scouts that did not venture out far beyond the visitor experience area due to the distance and physical requirements to travel. I personally experienced tremendous physical pain most of the time due to these conditions and I considered myself to be in pretty decent shape.

These travel issues were especially challenging for staff as they had to walk as well and then try to enthusiastically work for many hours. The Summit was pretty clear to communicate in advance the high adventure level requirements but most of the staff I chatted with said they came under prepared for the reality.

Speaking of staff.

A super shout out to everyone that served. Your sacrifice of time and rescources is to absolutely be commended.

Staffing levels were the number one Jamboree problem and should be the number one focus for correction before the next Jamboree in 2017. The Summit had capacity for every Scout to enjoy all activities with minimal wait. This did not happen however due to a severely low level of staff. In fact, we had a couple of Scouts that ended up only getting to do one or two activities during the entire Jamboree with the zip line as an example experiencing a six hour wait. Our Scouts that were able to do it got up at 430 one morning and still were not first in line to participate. This was totally unacceptable and unfair to the Scouts and the overworked volunteer staff. I felt really sorry for both.

Staffers have to pay to be there and many found it difficult to handle the long hikes and heat. Shuttles need to be provided for staffers as this would reduce the walking requirements and may allow for some that do not meet the current health requirements to help. I would also have more professional staff at the most popular activities with incentives for the volunteers in those areas including free attendance.

The Summit has a long list of positives that far outweigh these opportunities. The future is bright as it will continue growing even more as showcase for Scouting and a launching pad for a new future of excitement.

Personally I would not hesitate to go again and am already excited to return again in 2017 and hopefully 2019 to give back as staff. See you there!

Did you go to Jamboree?  What did you think? 

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