The West Virginia. Cyclopedia
Garden Ground Mountain
In southern Fayette County and northern Raleigh County, Garden Ground Mountain, sometimes locally called Garden Grounds Mountain, forms part of the western wall of the New River Gorge. Its highest elevations rise above 2,500 feet along a crescent of peaks roughly a quarter mile west of the gorge. The mountain also lends its name to the region of forested ridges and tablelands north and west, which are locally known as the "Garden Grounds."
In 2009 the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) purchased more than 10,000 acres on and near the mountain for the location of a high-adventure National Scouting Center similar to others it operates in Florida, Minnesota, and New Mexico. The site has also been proposed as a permanent location for the National Scout Jamboree. The jamboree, held every four years, attracts nearly 30,000 Scouts from around the U.S. and 12,000 staff and volunteers.
The National Park Service (NPS) also owns some 55,000 acres on the mountain as part of the New River Gorge National River (NRGNR). The service was particularly inclined to encourage the BSA development, according to Don Striker, superintendent for the national river, as it was found compatible with the preservation of the gorge, one of the chief missions of the NPS in southern West Virginia. "The center is highly compatable with our mission to emphasize outdoor recreation and the preservation of the environment in the gorge," Striker said in an interview with West Virginia Explorer in July 2009.
The origin of the name "Garden Ground" is the subject of speculation. Local newspaper columnist Shirley Donnelly claimed that when the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O) was being built through the gorge, between 1870 and 1873, laborers (and their families) would garden the levels atop the mountain. The construction of the 1,600 foot long Stretchers Neck Tunnel, near present-day Prince, required several years of work. Donnelly cited traditional accounts that claimed most of the workers were recently free slaves from the South, who had traveled to the area seeking work, bringing their extended families with them. The worker's families lived on the mountain and farmed its plateau areas during the years that the tunnel was being constructed. A few families supposedly remained after the rail construction was finished, moving from the area later, taking jobs in the newly developing coal fields.
Before the Civil War, Donnelly said, Ben Taylor, a cousin of U.S. President Zachary Taylor, had settled in the plateau area, west of mountain and opened a hat factory and weaving shop there, close to the Giles, Fayette and Kanawha Turnpike, near present-day Mount Hope/Glen Jean area.
A news article about the The Summit: Bechtel Family National Scouting Reserve from NewRiverWV.com