A legacy for scouting and community

Jan. 19, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

Tucked back into downtown Rutherfordton adjacent to Kiwanis Park, nearby Cleghorn Creek and along the Overmountain Victory Trail, lies what Eric Gibson calls "one of the best kept secrets in Rutherford County."

Gibson is referring to the Scout Hut, a rustic log cabin structure off of Toms Street, which he helped to envision and establish with the help of the surrounding community more than a decade ago for the scouts of Rutherfordton.

For nearly 45 years, Boy Scout Troop 132 of Rutherfordton held weekly meetings in the basement of the First Baptist Church on North Main Street, while Cub Scout Pack 165 of Rutherfordton met at the First United Methodist Church next door.

In the early 2000s Gibson, president of the Rutherfordton Enrichment Council, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization tasked with building and maintaining a facility for area youth, began discussing with Rutherfordton Scout Master Dean Perry the possibility of creating a scout hut.

This February, the facility will celebrate its second anniversary of serving young people and the community.


A place to meet

The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, which include helping others, loyalty, kindness and obedience, among other values.

Programs include Cub Scouts for boys in first grade through fifth grade (ages 7-10), and Boy Scouts for boys at least 10 years old or who have completed fifth grade and are at least 10, or who are 11 but not yet 18 years old.

Cub Scout Pack 165 currently has around 35 scouts and 16 adult leaders, while Boy Scout Troop 132 has about 40 boys on its roster.

Typically Cub and Boy Scouts belong to a church, school or other group of people in the community that ensures the scouts have qualified leaders, planned activities and perhaps most importantly a place to meet.

"A lot of times scouts meet at their churches, but the Scout Hut gives ownership to the scouts," said Rutherfordton Cub Master Chris Burley. "We call it the 'Scout Hut' because the scouts regularly meet there, but it is really a community effort that got the concept for the facility going. It wasn't just a predominantly scout-driven idea."

The actual construction of the Scout Hut was also a community effort, according to Gibson.

"We were fortunate to receive grants from Timken, Stonecutter and Tanner and the land the Scout Hut sits on was donated by Dr. Scott Jordan, DDS, and his wife of Rutherfordton," Gibson said. "Local suppliers also offered discounts on their products or services and members of Isothermal Community College's engineering program assisted with the electricity, plumbing and woodworking."


A place to call home

The hut's design lends itself to the concept of the outdoor program in scouting, from the exterior log cabin architecture to the interior stone fireplace and moose antlers adorning the walls.

"The feeling the hut gives of the rugged outdoors really aids the boys in having a place where they feel like they have ownership," Burley said. "Gathering around the fireplace is like gathering around a campfire."

The Scout Hut also provides a full kitchen, an upstairs loft and conference room, bathrooms and shower facilities conducive to overnight stays.

"Kiwanis Park is right across from the hut, so a lot of times the scouts will go to the park to participate in specific camping and outdoor activities and to learn team-building skills," Burley said. "What the Scout Hut gives back to scouting is a platform where scouts can be close to the park to do a program or have a place inside to do activities like pocket knife skills."

Among the hut's interior decor is a "High Adventure Corner" in the upstairs loft, which includes items from various high adventure programs the scouts have participated in.

Adorning the walls are flags from Florida National High Adventure Sea Base, a facility that provides scouts with aquatics programs in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas from sailing and scuba diving to fishing and camping on an undeveloped barrier island.

Also on display is an American flag carried by the scouts in 2007 during a week-long hike at Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico. The ranch offers scouts a variety of rugged activities including backpacking treks, horseback cavalcades and training programs.

"The hut has become identified as being a place where the scouting programs are supported, and it's a place that the boys take pride in as far as having a special meeting place related to scouts," Perry said.

And while the biggest driving force behind the establishment of the Scout Hut was to fulfill the need for a place that the scouts could call their own, Gibson also wanted it to be a place to share with the community.


A place for community

When the Scout Hut was built, it was intended to be utilized not only by the Rutherfordton Cub and Boy Scouts, but also by the whole community.

"It's a perfect place for people to come who need a venue to have a meeting or ceremony and feel comfortable," Perry said. "It's a place to serve and help better our community."

In addition to the weekly meetings held by the Cub and Boy Scouts, the Scout Hut hosts Daughters of the American Revolution meetings once a month as well as youth football, soccer and Little League meetings. Other organizations that have held events at the Scout Hut include the Boy Scout District Round Table, Order of the Arrow Society, Kiwanis Club of Rutherfordton and Rutherford County Sheriff's Office.

Church groups, organizations involving youth and traveling sports teams or scouts can use the facility free of charge, and even bring sleeping bags to spend the night.

"We want people to know the hut is available. We have previously rented out the facility for a wedding, birthdays and holiday parties," Gibson said. "Our goal is to show the community that the scouts are alive and well here, and to be a shining star in Rutherford County for the youth and community."

"There are other scout huts in other locations and counties, but we're proud of ours because it was something that a lot of people in the area helped us with," Perry said. "It's been a joint effort and we want it to be a legacy for scouting for years to come, as well as a place for the community."


Book the hut

For more information about the Scout Hut and renting it for your event, contact Eric Wells at 828-223-9064 or Eric Gibson at 828-289-1179.