Scouts plan basin trail
Boy Scouts in the Evangeline Area District, as well as those from around the nation, will be able to experience high adventure kayaking in the Atchafalaya Basin beginning this summer.
The Atchafalaya Swamp Base is a national high adventure trek offered to scouts over age 14 and their leaders. It is a 65-mile trail, which starts at the Bayou Courtableau Trailhead near Port Barre and ends at Myette Pointe, near Charenton. Scouts will stay in houseboats, primitive swamp camping and on an island at Lake Fausse Point during the trip which integrates folk lore and service projects throughout the area, said Ben Pierce, Swamp Base director.
“We are primarily wanting to give back to the area and introduce it to our kids,” Pierce said.
According to the Atchafalaya Swamp Base website, participation is restricted to Boy Scouts, Varsity Scouts, Venture Scouts, Sea Scouts and registered leaders. Participants must turn 14 by Dec. 31.
The first scouts are expected to take the seven-day, six-night trek beginning in June. Crews of 10 to 12 people will pay $425 per person, while crews of eight or nine people will pay $475 per person, the website states. The cost is significantly less than other national high adventure treks, Pierce noted.
The Evangeline Area Council continues to accept donations toward the high adventure trek.
“Any support to help buy necessary capital expenditures is important because we’re trying to make this as affordable as possible for our scouts,” Pierce said.
The scouts actually spend five days and four nights immersed in the swamp. The remaining two days are the first and last, which they spend in Lafayette, Pierce said.
Scouts will be boating through part of the largest swamp in the country. At over 1 million acres, it also is one of the nation’s most ecologically diverse regions. The History Channel’s website says the “wetlands, bayous and marshes are home to 300 species of birds, 90 species of fish and shellfish and 54 species of reptiles and amphibians, including the great American alligator.”
The project started in 2010 as part of the celebration of scouting centennial. Pierce said the Evangeline Area Council, which is in charge of the trek and includes St. Mary Parish, looked at Atchafalaya Basin as an excellent opportunity for scouts to learn about the environment and about South Louisiana culture.
The project started as a conservation program for scouts when the council adopted the basin in 2010. Since then, scouts from across the area have focused on stewardship of the swamps, focusing on tree plantings and trash cleanup. Pierce said the council has committed to this service project for the next 100 years.
The high adventure trek is focused on getting young people into the area for extended time so that they can learn to take pride in the beauty and culture of the area.
“If they spend time out there, they want to preserve it, protect it,” Pierce said.
As the basin primarily is a water-based environment, paddle trails were a natural fit, he said.
The national high adventure trek was piloted in 2012 by scouts from nearby parishes, Pierce said.
“They survived, thrived and several are coming back this year,” he said.
This fall the trek was marketed nationally to scouts and received an “incredible response,” Pierce added.
About 150 scouts from across the country are coming to paddle the waters of the basin. They hail from inside the Evangeline Area Council as well as Baton Rouge, Texas, Georgia, Illinois and Minnesota.
“It’s pretty cool to have scouts coming from the headwaters of the Mississippi to the southern end,” Pierce said.
The program is not completely booked this year primarily, Pierce said, because it is competing with a lot of traditional high adventure bases around the country that have been around for years.
Looking toward the future, the council is working on development of a $21 million complex in association with their adoption of the Atchafalaya Basin, financed through a capital and endowment campaign, Pierce said.
The site, which has yet to be determined, would provide a place for scouting activity throughout the year and the Atchafalaya Swamp Base in the summer as well as university students in the fall and spring semesters. The council also hopes to integrate primary and secondary curriculums in which students could learn about the local ecosystem and culture.
Also for the future, there are 300 miles of trail that have been identified for day treks, many of them in St. Mary Parish.
To donate or for more information, contact Pierce at 337-235-8551, extension 111. Visit the project online at www.bsaswampbase.org.