Boy Scout Leader Is Ready to Tackle Tons of Trash
BELLAIRE – Come July 15, scenes from the classic Yogi Bear cartoon could be playing out in West Virginia’s New River Gorge region.
Only this time, Ranger Smith will be played by the real-life character of Dan Lofton. And Yogi Bear and his sidekick, Boo Boo, will, in fact, be real-life Black Bears looking not to swipe a lunch from a “pic-a-nic basket,” as Yogi would put it, but to raid the 120 tons of garbage that will be created during this year’s National Boy Scout Jamboree.
Strap on your ranger hat, Mr. Lofton. You’ve got your work cut out for you.
Lofton is a Bellaire resident who is in charge of garbage removal from this year’s National Boy Scout Jamboree. He faces a big challenge over the next few weeks not only from the bears, raccoons and other forms of wildlife that will be working to get into the garbage, but also from having to coordinate garbage collection from what amounts to a large city, at least in West Virginia terms.
An estimated 40,000 Boy Scouts and leaders will be at the jamboree for 10 days starting July 15. Their trash will need collected and then trucked to a landfill in Raleigh County. Lofton estimates trucks may need to run on a 24-hour cycle to keep up with the work.
“What we’re looking at … is a big job, but if we do it right they’ll never know they had garbage. Just being able to keep the garbage flowing out of the camp will be a challenge,” he said.
But it’s the bears – and keeping them out of the campgrounds – that keep him up at night.
“Bears are going to be a problem, but I think we’ll be able to deal with that,” he said. “We will need to avoid them, and, if we come across them, not startle them. The big thing is, we need to keep the food out of the camping areas. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources will be in charge of dealing with bears if we need them.”
Lofton, a scoutmaster since 1984, has been to eight previous national jamborees, which are held every four years. He has served in various capacities at previous events including managing dining facilities.
During the last jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill Virginia, he assisted with garbage removal by running a garbage grinder, which he described as a giant garbage disposal.
Following that experience, he decided to volunteer to be in charge of garbage operations at this year’s jamboree.
“I just felt like I needed another challenge,” he said.
Lofton has met several times with national Scout officials, including the head architect of all the national Boy Scout camps, to discuss the garbage collection plan. During visits to the Summit Bechtel Family Preserve, which is where the Jamboree will be held, he’s also taken time to scout the landfill in Raleigh County.
Finding enough Dumpsters also is proving to be a challenge.
Lofton said he will need several hundred to properly collect and dispose of the garbage.
“I want you to go out and try to find 320 dumpsters. This is what’s really scaring us. When we were down there recently there weren’t any dumpsters there yet.”
“People I have talked to have told me they are really having a hard time finding them,” he added. “A lot of things have been considered but there’s no way to take the trash out of that Jamboree but in Dumpsters. That I’m sure of.”
Several things are being done to help alleviate the amount of waste created at this year’s Jamboree, he added.
“There will be no plastic water bottles. Boys will fill up their own water bottles. They will only be allowed to bring in what they can carry in their hands. This will eliminate a lot of garbage to start with,” he said. “We also are going to educate and promote a green attitude. Everything is going to be to encourage waste reduction, in every area of the camp. The boys will be given rewards for how well they comply.”
While the garbage collection plan has consumed much of his time to date, during the Jamboree Lofton will have another task: teaching the thousands of scouts about recycling.
“I’m also the Summit Green Team Leader,” he said. “In addition to making sure the garbage is collected, we will also be responsible for training the boys in recycling.”
A staff of about 20 will assist Lofton in this task. His assistant is 23-year-old Forest Merryman of Bellaire.
Merryman, an Eagle Scout, will be participating in his third jamboree.
“This is the largest effort the Boy Scouts will ever make in teaching boys in recycling,” Lofton said. “This is something we want the boys to take home.
“In addition, now we’ve been told we are also going to be involved with TerraCycling, which is something new, recycling food. This is something we were not familiar with and will be getting trained on ourselves so we can teach the boys. They actually take recycled food and bottle it for fertilizer.”
Lofton said he expects everything to come together during the event. “I think it’s a monumental job. We’ll give it our best shot,” Lofton concluded. “If things go like they are supposed to, I think we can make it work. We’re working with first-class people. I think they can do the job. We’ll be prepared.”