By Jackie Ayres
Southern West Virginia can expect to see thousands of Boy Scouts in town year-round when the Boy Scouts of America opens its new National Scouting Center and high-adventure base in the Mount Hope-Glen Jean area, officials say.
As scout officials work with the Fayette County Commission to rezone the 10,000-plus acres of land at the Garden Ground Mountain site, a local airport says it is also preparing for a big boost in business.
“I think this is a very positive economic opportunity for the community, as well as for this airport,” said Tom Cochran, manager of Raleigh County Memorial Airport.
“The airport is geographically sitting in a perfect position to be a great support to the Boy Scouts in what will be going on with this new venture that’s in development.”
The airport will be even more accessible to the new high-adventure base when the first phase of the Z-Way project is completed.
“The first phase is going to connect right into the access route that goes into the new Boy Scout location,” Cochran explained.
“We’re only about 20-25 minutes driving time from the site to the airport. For the past few years, we’ve tried to develop the airport in a way to accommodate the kind of traffic and population they would be bringing in.”
The airport is in the midst of an $800,000 paving project in its corporate aviation area. Next month, the airport will begin another $800,000 improvement in lighting and navigational aids on its primary runway.
“We have resurfaced our runways, and we’ve also built the weight-bearing capacity up on those runways so we can accommodate much larger aircraft,” Cochran said.
Runways at the airport have recently been utilized by whitewater rafting companies to handle 757 aircraft carrying more than 150 passengers.
“The real beauty of all of this is that we have the expandable land. We can expand on the length of our runways, and also parking areas for additional, larger aircraft,” Cochran explained.
“Just the economics of this airport give us the opportunity to stimulate interest in our present air carrier, as well as the competition with any kind of economic growth.”
Cochran says the infrastructure at the airport is already in place to support the large capacity of visitors once the new high-adventure base is complete.
“The opportunities are just very wide in range of what we can do to help service this new venture,” he said.
“I think this certainly gives us an opportunity to say that some great choices have been made that people are looking at West Virginia in a different way now. We’re a state that’s a beautiful place to live — and a beautiful place to play. The outside world is starting to see some of these advantages.”