Pitched tents interspersed with frisbee golf, canoes, and bouncy houses as far as the eye can see can mean only one thing: Boy Scouts from all over New England are prepared for a weekend on the Charles.
Scouting’s Outdoor Adventure on the River, which opened Saturday, is a jamboree hosted by the Boy Scouts of America Spirit of Adventure Council, said council chief executive Chuck Eaton, who grew up as a member of Troop 32 in Quincy.
A mile-long stretch along the river was already teeming with activity Saturday afternoon. More than 4,000 scouts and leaders had already arrived, in addition to 400 volunteers and 20 staff members, Eaton said. Most are older troops that will camp out overnight and be joined on Sunday by pre-registered Cub Scouts and others registering that day, according to Eaton.
Bringing people from the community into the event was important to the leadership, which is why the state Department of Conservation and Recreation recommended the highly visible Herter and Artesani Parks on the Charles River, Eaton said.
Most troops spending the night get a small patch of land to set up camp, with some urban challenges like benches in the middle of the space. While there are some out-of-state troops from Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire, most come from the Boston area, where the Spirit of Adventure Council serves 76 communities, Eaton said.
“No matter where they’re from, [the scouts] all speak the same language,” Eaton said. “They’re all working on the same merit badges, they all took the same oath. It creates common ground.”
Although incongruous with the name, some of the Boy Scouts attending SOAR are girls. Eaton said that as scouting has grown, it’s become more family oriented, which means the whole family, including sisters, have become more involved. Explorers and Venturing, the group for 14- to 21-year-olds, is co-ed.
“There are lots of girls here this weekend,” Eaton said. “They bring a different and wonderful energy.”
Most of the volunteers for SOAR are moms and dads of scouts, but about 75 to 100 are high school and college students who are scouts themselves, according to Eaton. Volunteering lets them work on leadership skills while also providing the younger kids with role models, he said.
“Scouting is all about families working together to help raise each other’s kids and utilizing the outdoors,” Eaton said.