At the Summit Bechtel Reserve, even the signs are cool (and award-winning)

It’s the details that elevate the Summit Bechtel Reserve from an awesome high-adventure destination to one of the coolest places on earth.

Details like the signs. At the archery area called the Bows, yellow, red and blue targets are integrated into each letter of the sign. At the Ropes climbing area, actual rope wraps around a vertical pole. At the Park skateboarding area, the letters look like they’re spray-painted onto a large concrete cylinder.

Though they might not express it outright, Scouts and Venturers notice awesome touches like these. They make SBR a destination young people want to visit and return to again and again.

But it’s not just the Scouts and Venturers who noticed the cool signs. Recently the Summit Bechtel Reserve signs were named Best Sign Systems of 2015 by the (appropriately named) industry magazine Signs of the Times.

The Summit’s signs do more than point the way or tell you where you are. They define its character. Read on for more.

Turning to the experts

The signs were designed by RSM Design and fabricated and installed by Design Communications Ltd.

The RSM and DCL teams did a fantastic job. Each area’s sign is a promise of something exciting a few steps away.

Scouts and Venturers see the signs, and the Summit’s awesome high-adventure activities deliver on those promises.

Technical details

For those of you into that kind of thing, here are some details on how these signs were made:

Engineers created detailed shop drawings and proofs using AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW software, then prepped the files for CNC-router production with SA Intl.’s EnRoute 4 software.

The shop produced the signs using an array of natural and rugged materials: locally sourced hemlock and cedar, precast concrete, faux-finished aluminum and Cor-Ten® patina-finish steel. DCL processed the panels via a combination of its MultiCam 7000 CNC router, a Powermatic 68 table saw, a Miller Electric Mfg. Co. Millermatic 200 MIG welder, and a Portland 67255 chainsaw.

Photos of the signs

Here are a few photos of the signs that caught the eye of Signs of the Times magazine.


The-Park-sign-at-the-Summit The-Rocks-sign-at-the-Summit The-Bows-sign-at-the-Summit The-Ropes-sign-at-the-Summit

Hat tip: Thanks to Mike Lawrance for the blog post idea.


  1. “At the Ropes climbing area, actual rope wraps around a vertical pole.” What a stupid pointless waste of otherwise good rope. Now, if you’d (not you in particular, Bryan, but National in general) take retired climbing rope (and there’s no way that there’s that many kids going through and no ropes have been retired), drawn a line down it lengthwise with a black sharpie to mark it as retired, then wrapped the pole in that, that would look really cool because climbing rope looks cool, and it would be far more emblematic and representative of the climbing area than 3-strand rope that literally isn’t used for anything in climbing other than possibly staff lobster claws.

    • Well, maybe 3-strand rope is used in the monkey bridge pictured on the sign, but it can’t be used for anything truly load bearing other than staff lobster claws (where it’s the best current choice for quick-adjusting variable length claw leads). Basically, you generally can’t use 3-strand rope in a “ropes area” unless it’s a Pioneering ropes area, and by the picture of a helmeted and harness Scout I don’t think that type of ropes area is meant.

    • /SHM. (Shake My Head) “stupid” “pointless” I disagree.

      Would retired climbing ropes have been cool? Yes. Absolutely.

      But consider this – this is rope made out of natural materials that is very likely to age gracefully.

      I would like to commend BSA for really stepping out of their comfort zone. These signs are impressive and quite aesthetically pleasing.

      • In your experience, what natural materials have ever aged gracefully? Have you ever handled natural fiber ropes that’ve sat out in the sun all day every day for weeks on end? After only a single summer you can literally get splinters (of fibers) from touching the rope because the repeated cool/wet nights compared to hot/dry days and tons of hours of UV exposure really does a number on things. There’s no way on this planet that 3-strand “natural” rope would last as long, or age as gracefully, as real climbing rope, (unless it’s been treated with something, and climbing rope could be treated with that same something and have its life similarly extended, so the point of treatment is moot). That’s part of the reason climbing ropes so quickly edged out natural rope — you could keep using it for months, years, at a time, and it would still be almost as strong as it was originally. The same cannot be said for natural rope.

        Not to mention, thematically, it just seems obvious that it was designed by someone who doesn’t really know what they should have been designing for, someone who heard “ropes course” and figured that ropes are ropes and that 3-strand natural rope would obviously be emblematic of a climbing area.

  2. The summit, FL Sea Base, northern tier, etc. are all great Scouting locations. But instead of just advertising it to scout leaders, and scouts, can we get some ads on TV, billboards, radio, etc. that lets non scouting young men know about these places and about Scouting? I have never seen an ad on TV to join BSA, I have only seen 1 bill board from Kansas City about joining Scouts.

    We need to get the word out about how great Scouting is to the right mass market, young men 11-17. Scouting is becoming the best kept “secret” out there. Let’s no keep it a secret.

    • I agree that increased advertising would generally help. As a note, I do see Cub Scout promos during Saturday morning programming in my area (Denver, Colorado).

      • Its good you see some advertising, wish there was a ton of it out there. We have the best program in the world but few are seeing it.

  3. I love the signs. I just cringe when I hear how much the place cost. I know a lot of stuff was donated but the price tag was still millions. I hope they run many Scouts through there so it does not bankrupt the organization.

  4. Personally, I think BSA is pouring an awful lot of money into the Summit, donated or not. Meanwhile, we still have To buy hard copy MB books, struggle to keep up local camps and work with sub standard IT tools. That all at a much higher cost to attend the Summit such that it becomes less attainable to attend.

    • Most of the Summit has been a waste of money. The very first year it opened, I looked into working there. The Summit website had a FAQ about why they were charging people to “volunteer” to work there, and they said something about how they couldn’t afford to operate otherwise, which told me right off the bat that they were pouring way too much money into a sinkhole.

      After a few years, finding that many people to pay to work there? Not a chance. Finding that many people who’d volunteer to work there? Possibly, but they’d already said that they couldn’t operate that way. For the areas that really require training and certification, no, they’d have to pay some people (and, as it turns out, they did, for some positions, and that number has grown since as the Summit loses the “new kid on the block” status). Ever since, National has continued pouring tons of money into something that just can’t be fiscally sustainable in the long run.

      If it’s going to be sustainable, it has to be run like a business — you can’t expect your employees to pay you.

  5. If I am the first to communicate this, I apologize, LIFE IS NOT FAIR. Not even in Boy Scouts. Life is not fair even more so for people who are angry, disgruntled or lack the grace and patience it takes to work with others.
    The pyramids were built with slave labor at a price I cannot even imagine. And today they are viewed by many as one of the wonders of the world. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel may have been viewed as a waste of resources to some at the time it was being painted. But what a masterpiece it turned out to be.
    As with any other thing, time will tell if the Summit is a success.
    However, I am certain the success, or lack there of, will not be determined by the proper use of a three strand rope or it’s presence on a sign post.

    • What does the angry response that “Life is not Fair” have to do with the legitimate discussion of the Summit and its signs? But since the issue of fairness has been raised, I will agree that life is not and never will be fair. However, one of our jobs as a character-building organization is to convince our Scouts that part of being a responsible person is to strive daily to make life a bit more fair for the people around us.

      • My apologies, the ‘all caps’ portion was for emphasis, not anger. The legitimate discussion of the signage was lost when the discussion began to address other issues like a flawed business plan, waste of money and a sinkhole. It appeared to me the rope issue was a segue to the real issue.
        I believe you and I agree in the areas of character building, fair play and the hope we have for generations to come. The injustices in life bother me also. That is why I serve.

  6. I paid to “Volunteer” at the Summit Jamboree. Maybe it seemed expensive, yes, but cheaper than a visit to Vegas, and what did I really want to do, anyway? What did I get for my money (and my church, which helped send me there as a Chaplain)? I got a really good duffle bag, big , commodious, useful. I have used it many times since. Got a tent, a bunk bed and three neat fellows to swap yarns with . I got first class entertainment, (even if some entertainers chose not to come) , the music ( and even the speeches) were very enjoyable. (thank you, Mike Rowe) I got woods to hike thru. I got several hundred friends to meet and enjoy life with. I got many hours of stories I can regale folks at home with (ok, some regale, some bore…. their loss). I got a world class fireworks display. I saw 30,000 (?) Scouts having fun and overcoming problems and disappointment (thunder and lightining closes down ziplines). I saw strangers coming together and working together to have fun and solve problems (how to stop that bridge from racking itself to pieces? How to get Scouts to where they want to be? How to distribute the food?)
    I met some folks I had not seen in many years( and had not expected to see!). I got to see a reclaimed strip mine site, I can only imagine what it looked like 50 years before. I got to help some Scouts work out their differences and go home as brothers rather than just “Scouts”. I helped some boys recover from sickness. I was asked by a Scoutmaster to come and “speak to my boys”. About what, I asked? “Tell’em something important”, he said. Okay, so I came and talked about the Scout Law, and what it meant to me. I actually had some of them nodding their heads, and one came up and thanked me. Today, I couldn’t remember what I said , but hey, that wasn’t the point. I was where I was supposed to be.
    It could’ve been better, but I think it was still worth the effort. Lots of effort.
    Signage? Ropes? I have some 150 feet 7/8 manila hawser and a set of double sheave blocks, all easily more than 50 years. Would I trust my life to them? Maybe not, but I have hauled tree trunks with them and impressed Cub Scouts with them (5 Cubs pull a dozen adults!) . Will that rope weather nicely? Sure, but I don’t leave it out in the weather when I’m done. . I also have some Plymouth Gold Line, and , boy , does it stretch when loaded past it’s limit. Manila breaks, Nylon stretches. Both have their use.
    Just like me.
    Good Scouting to you! And in 2017, at the Summit, the greeting will be “GOOD JAMBO!”

    • You said, “I paid to ‘Volunteer’ at the Summit Jamboree. Maybe it seemed expensive, yes, but cheaper than a visit to Vegas, and what did I really want to do, anyway?”

      But are you going to be doing that every summer from now on? If your answer is “no,” then that’s kind of my point — that business model is inherently unsustainable and National was foolish to put themselves in the position where that’s the only tenable way to keep everything going. If your answer is yes, then more power to you, but I don’t think everyone else that staffed the first year feels the same way.

      • You also said, “Would I trust my life to them? Maybe not…” That’s basically what I said. You can’t use rope like that in an actual ropes course where people’s lives depend on it. A temporary monkey bridge? Sure. Actual climbing or the area that is called a “ropes course”? No (other than for lobster claws, where it’s the best choice in my opinion). Your anecdotes kind of seem like they’re proving the points I was trying to make.

        • “” Your anecdotes kind of seem like they’re proving the points I was trying to make.””
          MMMmmm… no… Did we pay for the privilege of volunteering? I suppose so, but the food and accomodations and “ambient” showers had to be purchased. And I was not there only for my own entertainment, tho I did enjoy myself.
          The Summit is not there for only the Jamborees, it will pay for itself with the other programs there, much like Philmont pays its way with fee paying Scout trekkers and other programs. So paying to volunteer is not the only thing to look at. The Summit was “donated” by Bechtel et al, it really didn’t cost BSA that much up front. It will pay no property taxes. It has a lot of “potential” and the BSA is beginning to use that. High Adventure, summer camps, school programs, international programs, etc. It was never intended to be a “money maker” anyway, right?
          As for the rope thing, I mentioned that because I like rope. (Newton’s fourth Law of Motion states “you cannot push a rope.”) My dad was a steel rigger in his yoooth. The old manila I have would look right at home on a square rigger, but in actual use, it would certainly be replaced almost every year. Use for mountaineering? Not in this day and age. ‘Way back when, it would’ve been the best there is, but now, it is used for “special” things, and then put away.
          Would you rather they had used really good (expensive!) climbing rope for that stand there forever sign?
          I think it is an attractive sign and I am sure the riggers and climbers at the ROPES make note of the difference in cordage in their instruction and activities .
          On behalf of the youth YOU serve, I thank you for your time and sacrifice!
          Good Scouting to you!

        • “Would you rather they had used really good (expensive!) climbing rope for that stand there forever sign?” I already suggested that this could be a good use for expired rope.

          Also, it looks like the Summit is now paying its summer staff, so possibly they have a new economic model.

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