By Travis Broadhurst
The Summit Bechtel Reserve has been mentioned countless times over the past five years as the new BSA high adventure base in West Virginia. Starting with the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, it is the permanent home of future national jamborees and the host location of the 2019 World Scout Jamboree. Outside of these two events, there are several ways to discover all that the Summit Bechtel Reserve has to offer.
The Order of the Arrow’s Summit Experience program (OASE) is the newest addition to the exclusive programs offered through OA High Adventure (OAHA). It was conceived after the 2013 National Scout Jamboree as a way to spark interest, let Arrowmen experience the unique activities offered at the Summit and, most importantly, to give service back to the high adventure base and the surrounding community.
Over half of the US population lives within 500 miles of the property, making it within a day’s drive for thousands of Arrowmen. As the permanent home for future national jamborees and the site of the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, service performed at the Summit Bechtel reserve will have a lasting impact on many more Scouts for generations to come.
Realizing this, 2011 National Chief Jonathan Hillis created the program to serve the need and provide the experience for Arrowmen. The program was initiated in the summer of 2014 and had an astounding 80 participants. 2013 Northeast Region Chief Tyler Allen has served as the program’s inaugural director for the program’s first two summers.
The OASE program is designed to serve as an introduction to OA High Adventure. Thus, the program’s duration and activities are geared for Arrowmen between 14 and 17 years old. The purpose is to excite them about further opportunities in OA High Adventure and to inspire them to excite others about these opportunities as well.
The program is eight days long, split into two four-day segments. During the first four days, Arrowmen will find themselves building trails around the property or in the surrounding terrain of the New River Gorge National River Area. They will learn what it means to cheerfully serve in another capacity that is far from home by giving back to the BSA and to the citizens of West Virginia. Both the Summit Bechtel Reserve and the New River Gorge National River Area are areas that are often visited - so Arrowmen will immediately be able to see the effects of their service.
The final four days of the trip are filled with exhilarating activities including whitewater rafting, zip lining, mountain biking, rock climbing, mountain boarding and much more. Arrowmen will get to experience the variety of programs alongside their fellow brothers from the service portion of the trip.
This opportunity is one for the ages. 2015 Central Region Chief Joey Dierdorf remarked, “The Order of the Arrow Summit Experience was a phenomenal opportunity and definitely a highlight of my Scouting career! A chance for younger and older Arrowmen to come together in cheerful service and indescribable adventure, this leap start program is a wonderful addition to the OAHA family.”
In order to be a part of the second year of the OASE program, Arrowmen must be at least 14 for the entirety of the program, but not turn 18 before the program’s completion. Participants must also be registered members of the BSA and an OA lodge, be physically fit, and complete the BSA Annual Health & Medical Record. The cost for Arrowmen to participate in the program is only $250, which is remarkable when considering the life-changing experience they will have and intense activities they will take part in. More information can be found by visiting adventure.oa-bsa.org.
The OASE is a program that should not be missed, especially if you are a younger Arrowman and are looking into participating in OAHA in the future. OASE will inspire you to strengthen your commitment to the OA, introduce you to other brothers that will become lifelong friends, and give you an experience like none other. It is an opportunity that you would not want to pass up on.
By Travis Broadhurst