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Scouts from across the nation gather in Knoxville to build new trails at Ijams

Hundreds of scouts will learn trail building and maintenance techniques at the Ijams Nature Center, while they'll check for any maintenance concerns.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The National Order of the Arrow Conference (NOAC) is held in Knoxville this year and will last from July 25 to July 30. It brought thousands of Arrowmen from across the country, who are staying at the University of Tennessee. 

Hundreds of scouts are gathering at the Ijams Nature Center to create new trails, rebuild stairs and address problems such as drainage concerns. 

"And that's what I'm kind of most excited about," said Andy Akin, NOAC's project leader. "Teaching coming generations and even older folks who are interested in doing something new how to create sustainable pathways through the woods into the wilderness that they can be used well and safely for years to come."

The National Order of the Arrow began back in the 1990s. Their purpose was to promote outdoor adventures, make helpfulness a life purpose and inspire people to become leaders. 

While the organization has never included girls, they decided to change that in 2019. This time, their outdoor adventures included girls.

"I think the addition of young ladies has raised the game of everybody because they're really sharp," NOAC's National Media Relations Scott Armstrong said. "They have really put the guys on their toes, and having worked with a lot of the youth across the nation, they've done nothing but improve the program and kind of raise the game of everybody."

Scout leaders pinned down red flags for their volunteers to begin building the new trails. One of the warnings was to avoid poison ivy, which tends to grow in that area. Still, the scouts arrived with big smiles on their faces. 

"Our scouts are very excited to be here," said Sage Doyle, conference vice chief of NOAC. "You would think it would be difficult to convince people to go play in the dirt for hours on end, but our scouts love contributing towards conservation and being out in the field working."

The National Order of the Arrow Conference hopes to continue to take on national conservation projects. For its volunteers, it wishes they can get the best out of their experiences and leave Knoxville better than how they found it.

"We really hope that we send most of our participants at home with a new skill set and an interest and a passion and being able to do trail work and conservation that they didn't have before," Akin said. 

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