Sunday, April 12, 2009

Saving Goshen Pass?

A few months ago, the Boy Scouts of America announced Goshen was its first choice of location for their national jamboree. The event occurs every four years and would bring about 240,000 scouts and leaders to small mountain town with about 400 residents, a couple gas stations, a Dollar Store, a branch library, and a restaurant or two. Located in the northwestern corner of Rockbridge County, many would think Goshen is in the middle of nowhere, but their website claims its central location between Staunton, Lexington, Hot Springs, and Clifton Forge puts it "in the middle of everywhere." Is Clifton Forge anywhere, somewhere, or nowhere?
The headwaters of the Maury River are nearby and Goshen Pass is a popular canoeing, kayaking, and swimming destination. Hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping are popular recreational activities in the George Washington National Forest. So, why wouldn't folks in Goshen and surrounding areas welcome the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree? After all Scouts enjoy the outdoors, should be good stewards of the land and water, and the jamboree is only every four years which seems like a minimal hassle for the economic infusion it would bring to the area.
Nevertheless, in the spirit of "not in my backyard," groups have formed in opposition to the Boy Scouts' plans. Save Goshen Pass claims to be saving a special place and highlights the following objections:
We are concerned about the narrow and winding country roads, lack of adequate sewage treatment, volume of people overwhelming the fragile area, effects on wildlife, and the infrastructure that will change the natural resources of Goshen Pass forever.
One of the organizers of the opposition, Linda Larsen of nearby Rockbridge Baths, claims over 600 residents have signed petitions opposing the Boy Scouts' plans and that some 1,400 people have joined a Facebook group dedicated to their cause. Checking posts reveals other concerns - lack of clarity about the Boy Scouts' plans, how extensive would development at the site be, would the site be rented to other groups or used for other large scouting events between jamborees, additional local services required but the nonprofit Scouts don't pay taxes. Save Goshen Pass is closely affiliated with Friends of the Maury, a group long dedicated to preserving the stunningly beautiful river.
In announcing the search for a new site for their National Jamboree, the Boy Scouts cited the following desirable characteristics guiding their selection:
  • Have spectacular natural beauty
  • Have water for recreational activities
  • Be at least 5,000 acres and available for donation, long-term lease (100+ years), or sale
  • Be located within 25 miles of an interstate or a four-lane divided highway
  • Be located within 150 miles of a commercial service airport with medium or large hub status
  • Be located in an area with adequate medical services
  • Be accessible year-round via standard modes of transportation
It seems to me that the Boy Scouts have met most of their requirements. Yeah, it is pushing the 25 miles from a major road and it will be quite a hike for medical services in Lexington or Augusta Medical Center; but don't Scouts learn first-aid, plus I'm sure they'd bring in medical professionals for the jamboree. Now perhaps they can proffer some assurances about the extent of the development and sewage treatment. It would also go a long way if the Boy Scouts could make assurances about community service - river and roadside cleanups, trail maintenance, and other good deeds - they'd bring to the area.
So, I think there is room for compromise, consensus, and an outcome that benefits all concerned. In the meantime my advice to both sides: Be Prepared.

1 comment:

VA hunter said...

Since they dont have the required 5000 acres, where do you suppose they will find the additional 1000? Are they already in discussions with the state to procure "Wildlife management area" to meet that end? No one is talking!! the NCAC has already taken steps to clear the land of trees right next to the LNMWMA all along the eastern border of the camp. YOu can check this out on the Rockbridge GIS site.