A summer full of service

Cheerful Service: Impact at Bases

By Travis Broadhurst

Every year, hundreds of Arrowmen journey from far and wide to experience the adventure of a lifetime at the four BSA national high adventure bases: The Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico, Northern Tier in Minnesota and the Florida Sea Base in the Florida Keys. At each OA High Adventure (OAHA) program, Arrowmen complete various service projects for half the time they are there, and then are able to enjoy all the wonderful aspects of each high adventure base for the rest of the time.

This year, we were able to catch up with some of the directors of the OAHA program to see the magnitude of the OA impact that has made on these different parts of our nation.

James Williamson, assistant director of the OA Summit Experience (OASE), spoke about the tremendous impact the program had this summer:

“The Order of the Arrow Summit Experience program is an eight-day adventure for Arrowmen who are between the ages of 14 and 18 at the Summit Bechtel Reserve. Participants spend the first 3 1/2 days serving the New River Gorge National River area by building a hiking and mountain biking trail, while the remainder of the program is spent at the Summit experiencing several of the high adventure program areas! The program is capped off with a white water rafting trip down the New River! This summer was the third year of our program and it was the most successful summer we've had yet! It was also the most productive trail-building season we've had to date! Between our six staff members and 83 participants, we constructed approximately 3,800 feet of new trail and provided 3,000 man hours of service to the National Park! Our four foremen, who were the leaders of the crews this summer, were absolutely phenomenal! Through their passion and dedication, they made the experience life changing for each of our participants. We're proud to be serving our Arrowmen, the National Park Service and the Summit Bechtel Reserve, and are looking forward to continuing our service in the years to come!”

Sean Ferrier, on the other hand, provided a more in-depth look at the motivation behind the service at Northern Tier. Northern Tier hosts two OAHA programs, OA Wilderness Voyage (OAWV) and OA Canadian Odyssey (OACO). Both programs involve one week of service with one week of an intense canoeing voyage in the boundary waters of Minnesota and Canada.

“The two OAHA programs at Northern Tier provided over 5,500 hours of service repairing portage trails in the Boundary Waters and Quetico Park this summer. People who frequent these wilderness areas easily recognize OA trails for the quality of work performed and the vast improvement made to the trails compared to trails that we haven't touched. In addition to the immediate benefits of having nice trails for scouts to use, our work also benefits tens of thousands of travelers every summer, who may not be involved in Scouting since both wilderness areas are open to the public and see lots of traffic beyond crews that visit Northern Tier. The quality of work completed by the OA has also proven very beneficial to the BSA's relations with the US Forest Service as well as the Canadian Park Service. Both agencies are very appreciative of our work and believe that we perform a much higher quality of work than any other group.”

At OA Ocean Adventure (OAOA) in 2016, participants embarked on an eight day journey complete with four days of service at Big Munson Island and Camp Sawyer, and four days of sailing around the Florida Keys. On Big Munson Island, an island in the Keys owned by the BSA, the Arrowmen conducted projects that involved trail building, ecological preservation, water purification systems improvement and more. Arrowmen also built fire pits, removed invasive species, improved a volleyball court and helped restore a local council camp after storms ravaged the area over the summer. All in all, over 80 participants completed almost 2,000 man hours of service throughout the summer to benefit the Florida Keys. Tyler Bond, the OA Director at the Florida Sea Base, provided the information and wishes to thank all the foremen, participants and other brothers in the OA that provided immense support to the program this summer. For 2017 this program will be based out of Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas and will focus on service projects with the National Park Service as well as the opportunity to enjoy amazing snorkeling, kayaking and much more. To learn more about the Dry Tortugas visit www.nps.gov/drto/index.htm

In total, the five OAHA programs completed over 15,000 hours of service and impacted the lives of countless people across the United States. Cheerful service radiated from the sweat, strength and dedication of hundreds of Arrowmen, and we can’t thank them enough. For more information on how you can leave an impact in the summer of 2017 and embark on the journey of a lifetime, visit the OAHA website.

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