By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
A national Boy Scout jamboree scheduled for next year in Fayette County is expected to boost local economies, but local emergency services are preparing to handle traffic and help the thousands of visitors coming to southern West Virginia.
The National Boy Scout Jamboree that will be hosted at the new Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Fayette County will bring an influx of visitors who will fill local motels and restaurants across the region, but also cause some traffic jams, said Tim Farley, director of Mercer County Emergency Management.
A combined total of up to 50,000 people — scouts, their families and other visitors — are expected in the region, according to Boy Scout officials.
“We’re going to have an organizational awareness type meeting with all our fire departments, fire officials, law enforcement, hospitals, chambers of commerce and others,” he said. “I’m going to have some speakers come down to give us their input on how the Boy Scout jamboree in Fayette County is going to go, and they will have some numbers.”
The goal is to prevent problems before the visitors arrive in July 2013.
“I think we need to be more aware of what is coming,” Farley said. “We are going to have all of these folks coming through Mercer County. We’re going to have car accidents. We expect that.”
Many of the visitors will not be familiar with the region or its highways.
“Those folks who are coming are from all over the United States — California, Hawaii, Alaska, New Jersey, Florida. It’s nationwide. This is a big deal for the Boy Scouts,” Farley said.
Motorists from areas south of West Virginia and other points across the nation are often used to driving on level, straight highways, so they do not have any experience with Appalachia’s mountains and curves, he said. The visitors will fill motels and restaurants across the region. While this is good for local economies, residents have to remember that there will be extra traffic thanks to the guests from out of state.
“We just need our motorists to be aware that there’s going to be all these automobiles we normally don’t have traveling in West Virginia,” Farley added.
A test for handling a surge of visitors will take place in March 2013 when the state practices an evacuation of Summers County.
“This drill will be mostly to do with the Bluestone Dam, should it fail and we have an influx of evacuees from Summers County,” Farley said. “So we can use points in this drill and things we learned from this drill and apply them to the Boy Scout jamboree.”
The planning will involve the Mercer County Commission, Salvation Army, and churches.
“This is going to affect everybody,” Farley said. “We just need to have a plan in place and prepare for it.”
A date for the meeting had not been scheduled as of Tuesday.ϼ