Scout jumps the pond

Published 8:10 pm Friday, August 31, 2012

Staff Writer
The East Carolina Scout Reservation in Blount’s Creek will soon get a little international flair as a British Queen’s scout James Grant fulfills his Queen’s Service Award service project.
Grant chose to come to eastern North Carolina this October, likely because of his interest in the water and its proximity to the coast, said Ray Franks, scout executive of Boy Scouts of American, East Carolina Council. In addition to being an assistant scout leader in his native England, Grant works as a lifeguard in the Royal Borough of Windsor.
The East Carolina Scout Reservation he’ll be visiting consists of 860 acres on the Pamlico River, including Camp Boddie, Pamlico Sea Base, the Potashcorp ECO Lodge and 1.25 miles of waterfront. Pamlico Sea Base is a high adventure camp, open to scouts and non-scouts, offering kayaking adventures, sailing programs, scuba diving certification and a fleet of jet skis.
Grant hails from West Drayton, London, and has been scouting for 17 years, since age six. Unlike scouts in America who must complete Eagle Scout requirements before their 18th birthday, their British cousins have until the age of 25 to perform the equivalent Queen’s Service Award.
Franks said the scout reservation pulls in many visitors a year, from many states, but doesn’t think they’ve had anyone come from abroad before.
“Sixty-percent of campers are coming to us out of council and the major way they find us in on the Internet,” Franks said. “We’ve had people come from Mississippi, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, so, yes, we have almost 10,000 people come through here a year and over half of those people come from west of Raleigh.”
“(Grant) actually just went to the lab and started searching for camps he thought it would be fun to do a service project at,” Franks added.
Franks said the reservation has become quite a tourist a draw for this area: “I think people would be surprised at the tourism dollars we bring into the region.”
Through most of the year, the reservation employs three fulltime staff and relies on its many volunteers. Summertime, in the height of camping season, that number jumps to 75 fulltime employees, most of whom are students from East Carolina University, North Caroline State University and other nearby colleges.
“Now, on the weekends, most of our business comes into the Sea Base for weekend kayaking,” Franks explained. “We’ve got one of the few ocean-kayaking fleets in the state.”
Franks said while Grant is here, his service project requirements will be fulfilled by helping out with the weekend activities and doing meaningful projects, like maintaining and protecting the nature trail that runs behind the reservation’s ecology lodge, along the river.
James Grant will be available for speaking engagements with civic clubs, scouting units and other organizations in October. For more information, call H. Ray Franks, scout executive, at 252-522-1521 ext. 30.