- Associated Press - Sunday, June 26, 2016

WALKER, W.Va. (AP) - John Snyder, Camp Kootaga’s camp ranger, has volunteered at the camp in Wirt County since he was 10 years old.

Years later, in 1977 when the camp ranger position became available Snyder immediately applied for it.

When he was hired he left his job at the DuPont Plant to work there.

Snyder lives on the campgrounds in a house with his wife, Jean, that he built himself on weekends. He said it took him over a year to finish it.

Jean helps him mow the campground.

“She rides the riding lawn mower and I do a lot of the weed eating,” said Snyder. He said he helped build the camp into what it is now, something Snyder is proud about.

“I will be turning 77 years old this year and I can’t imagine myself doing anything else,” said Snyder.

Snyder is in charge of the care, the upkeep and maintenance of over 620 acres that belong to Camp Kootaga. Every Boy Scout that comes over that bridge to spend time in the camp is an adoptive son to him and he will spend every day all day working hard to make sure the camp is safe for everyone, Snyder said.

As boys advance through the Scouting program they learn confidence, leadership skills, outdoor skills, and important social skills, “just as I did when I was a Boy Scout as a boy,” said Snyder.

Bruce Enlow, Camp Kootaga’s camp director, said, “John is a very close friend. I have known him for as long as I can remember and I just feel honored to have him working here with us for so long. He is just a vault of knowledge on the Boy Scout program and the camp itself.”

When asked about his favorite part of being a camp ranger Snyder said without hesitation, “working with the kids and the volunteers. This isn’t just a job for me; it’s my way to help shape the next generation. Hopefully make them better people than when they came.”

Over 200 children affiliated with the Boy Scouts of America arrived at Camp Kootaga today. Snyder said he will be there to watch over them with help from paid staff and volunteers.

Enlow said that Don B. Lowe purchased the property that is now known as Camp Kootaga in 1922 under the Gim-O-Gash tribe of the Boy Scouts of America.

The first long-term summer camp was held that year on the banks of the Hughes River in the Kootaga region, said Enlow.

The camp consisted of one or two troops from the Parkersburg area with Don B. Lowe as the camp director during the early years. Enlow said that in 1929 Col. R. L. Cole brought a Kiowa Indian named J. Dougannah to help with the camp program.

He gave Indian names to the leaders and named the Boy Scout camp “Kootaga,” which means “Good Friends,” said Enlow. Through the years, Camp Kootaga has gone through many changes, said Enlow, but one thing has remained constant: helping develop young men into upstanding citizens and outstanding individuals.

“This year Camp Kootaga will celebrate 91 years of long-term summer camping on this site and we are proud to say that the commitment of the next 90 years burns strong in all of our hearts and minds,” said Enlow. “We would like to extend a sincere thank you on behalf of the adult leaders, campers, and staff to all of those who have given in the past to help make the camp a place where so many young boys have grown into good men.”

Today, because of Snyder, other staff and volunteers, Camp Kootaga has a wide range of activities for Boy Scouts and campers to do while they are visiting the campgrounds.

A full-sized swimming pool has lifeguards on duty.

The pool offers swimming classes with certified state licensed instructors. There are first aid classes, a nature center, boating, canoeing, welding, and many other classes for Scouts.

There is a rifle range that allows for day and night shooting with an instructor who has worked at the camp for 15 years, an archery range, many hiking trails, and a 45-foot climbing wall that is inspected by the state every year.

The camp has a Native American dance troop, Order of the Arrow, that puts on shows at various places in the state, including the Mid-Ohio Valley Multicultural Festival in Parkersburg, every year.

Thursday nights at the camp are family nights. Family night is a Kootaga tradition giving family members in the camp an opportunity to have dinner with their Scouts and attend the evening camp fire. Parents can bring food from home, because the dining hall is closed for the dinner meal.

Enlow said Camp Kootaga will always be a big supporter of the military. “We allow National Guard units to train here for free. We are now and always will be big supporters of our country’s veterans,” said Enlow.

“Our young Scouts learn many life lessons that they will not only use in their young lives but as they get older. They learn to step up and get involved. They learn how to deal with difficult situations and how to communicate and work with each other and with adults, all skills that make them successful every day,” said Enlow.

“The benefit of this camp is the memories that will last a lifetime. I still remember my time as a child here at camp, cutting grass by the bridge, spending time with friends,” said Snyder.

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Information from: News and Sentinel (Parkersburg, W.Va.), http://www.newsandsentinel.com

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