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Point the Scouts Gates County’s way

Gates County – home of the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree.

That has a nice ring to it…don’t you think?

It was learned last week that Gates County is listed among the 11 national sites under consideration by the Boy Scouts of America.

Mathmetically speaking, Gates County has a shade under a 10 percent chance of landing such a sweet deal. That would appear to say the odds aren’t necessarily in their favor, but, then again, that’s better than no chance at all.

And it should go without saying that if the Boy Scouts do set-up their national campground in the Sand Banks area of Gates County, it’s a thousand percent better than what’s being planned for that location at the current time.

According to a press release issued by scouting.org, the Boy Scouts are looking to secure a permanent home for their National Jamboree. That event, first staged in 1937, has been held in Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia since 1981 after previous stops in Pennsylvania, California, Colorado and Idaho.

Next stop, Gates County?

Who knows, that just might come true. Gates County officials have already launched a lobbying campaign, targeting state and federal politicians to write letters of support in helping Gates land this project.

And how does tiny Gates County rate among being mentioned as a site for such a huge event? Because they have what the Boy Scouts are looking for.

Among other requirements, the Boy Scouts are looking for the following:

Area must have natural beauty…..there’s nothing more that says “natural” than Gates County. It remains a pristine area with land…lots of land, as well as towering timber, clean water and an abundance of wildlife.

Area must have water for recreational activities. One of God’s most beautiful creations, the Chowan River, borders the area that the Boy Scouts are looking at.

There is a need for at least 5,000 acres. See above…Gates County has land, lots of land.

Site must be located within 25 miles of an interstate or a four-lane divided highway. With immediate plans to widen, to four lanes, US 13 between Tar Heel BBQ and the state line plus another four-lane project (US 158 from Murfreesboro to Winton) already in the planning stages, the Sand Banks site will fill this requirement.

The site needs to be located within 150 miles of a commercial service airport with medium or large hub status. Norfolk International Airport is 60 or so miles to the north.

There is a need for the site to be located in an area with adequate medical services. Roanoke-Chowan Hospital (Ahoskie), Obici Hospital (Suffolk) and Albemarle Hospital (Elizabeth City) are al located within a 45-minute drive. Plus, medical helicopters East Care and Nightingale are quickly and readily available for major emergencies.

The site needs to be accessible year-round via standard modes of transportation. The only worry here is that a major hurricane would knock down enough trees to make the Sand Banks inaccessible. If that does happen, Gates County leads the nation, per capita, in the number of chainsaws and four-wheel-drive pick’em-up trucks. I bet’cha they can clear a road faster than John Edwards’ “trust” level can decline.

The financial impact this could have on Gates County would be tremendous. National Jamborees, which typically take place every four years, have attracted more than 200,000 visitors per event. That’s not counting the other year-round activities at the site, one that will include a museum, visitor’s center and high-adventure center.

The site could also be the home of three motels, meaning more tax dollars for Gates. That means accompanying retail outlets (food, gas, other shopping, etc) will be needed.

It will also need its own security/police department.

The camp will employ 85-100 people. That’s not including the other employment opportunities that will spin-off as result of the site.

And what’s so great is that the Boy Scouts have money in-hand they’re ready to spend.

Wouldn’t it be nice to say, “goodbye OLF….hello Boy Scouts!”

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at 252-332-7207 or cal.bryant@r-cnews.com.)