Life as a Geocacher

Caching and Reviewing

This is made up of stories from my caching and my reviewing.  It is a collection of those along with comments and thoughts.  Photos, and maps of some adventures and lists of some of the oldest caches.

Why have good relations with land managers.

Quite often when reviewing I run across a cache in a national park, wilderness area, or when doing Earthcaches it is expanded to state and local parks.  In those instances I always have to ask for permission from the park service.  In some I need to ask for the land owner to actually email me, and let me know that their is permission before the cache gets listed.

Quite often when I tell the cache owner that we need this permission I get some odd responses.

The land is public land so I don't need permission

It is ok, because it is a long ways off the beaten trail

The land manager is stupid, it is a good location publish it.

Who owns parks?

Contrary to what most people seem to believe.  You (as a citizen of the community or the USA) do not own your park.  The government owns the park.  Sometimes the person that manages the park is not too keen on people trampling through some areas without them knowing.

I few years ago I took a course in Leave No Trace for my Boy Scout position.  Something surprised me in that course, something that should not have now that I give thought to it. In the 60's and 70's a number of people camped and participated in the outdoors.  They traveled to national parks, forests, and state parks for their visits.  Due to the ability to safely travel 100-200-300 miles, RV's, ATV's, and other forms of recreation the number of visitors to these resources has increased 10-50x.  Yet everyone is trying to use the same area.

So many parks have began to control usage.  Why? To keep people from destroying the park.  I remember watching a guy with a metal detector in a park across the street from my home.  I had seen many, and they had all carefully dug and removed their finds, then placed the material back where they found it.  This guy brought a shovel, rather than a small tool, dug up clumps of earth, screened it for what he was looking for, then dropped in on the ground.  Leaving a pile of dirt, and a hole. I know the parks discussed a ban on  metal detecting after this one bad experience.

So the land manager is charged with keeping the area nice, and making sure people are safe, and someone places a foolish cache in a sensitive location, and ruins it for everyone.

Early issues

Early on many geocachers did not worry about permission from land managers. This evolved into a rather hostile relationship with some locations, and also with groups like the National Park Service.  Those organizations developed instructions for their people that it was not really appropriate to place caches inside parks.   I know some park managers were annoyed, and complained.

So for many years, a number of parks carry on that thought.  We do not want to deal with them.

Indiana

Lets go to the extreme.  Many years ago the Department of Natural Resources decided that there should be a permit system to make sure that the caches in their managed properties are in appropriate locations.  At some point what was included was expanded.  The IDNR decided that not just the properties that they own, but all properties that they give money to, or are in any way associated with them were under their authority.  That includes many city parks and trails, that receive funding from them.

So a land manager looks, and sees caches being placed without permission, in parks they have jurisdiction over, and gets upset.  Upset to the point of causing issues.   How big of an issue?  Well after months of working with them, and trying to come to an accommodation here is the result. In the next week all the caches that are on state managed land will be archived.  Some containerless caches (Earthcaches and Virtuals) that do not fit the rules they set will be archived as well. People can apply for a permit, and they will be unarchived. 

Some of the clips from their website

  • The number of caches that may be placed on an Indiana state park, reservoir, state forest, or off-road riding area is determined by acreage. The maximum number of caches for any property 10,000 acres or more is 50.
  • Caches may not be placed more than 25 feet from developed roads or trails.
  • Caches may not be placed in nature preserves. 
  • Containerless caches do not require licenses, but they must be placed ONLY on an established trail, road or access point. This ensures that sensitive areas are protected and the containerless caches are not unwittingly drawing foot traffic into those areas.
  • Properties smaller than 200 acres do not qualify for geocaching (no caches or containerless caches.) This includes public access sites operated by the Division of Fish & Wildlife.
  • Multi-caches are permitted if the property manager approves, but they may not have more than five stages.
  • Licenses approved after October 1 may be approved for up to the end of the NEXT year. (ie a license granted October 15, 2012 would be good through December, 2013.)

Apparently the state has not worked well with any of the people that has tried and work with them.  As they land manager they don't have to.  They were going to do more before Geowoodstock, but held off to keep from getting a black eye.  I wonder if they follow or will make similar demands on other websites that have a "free for all" attitude about cache placements.

I have read a few posts from people that have said they just will not go to the parks anymore.  Personally I have paid in a few states to go into parks, and find caches.  I assume now that they will not be able to. I wonder how many great caches will go away, locations will never be seen because of this.

Utah

We can think that we are immune to all the crazy people back East.  However over the three years I have reviewed there have been some horrible caches, that land owners have gotten violent about. People walking across their property.

My favorite is when the cache is in a tree between the sidewalk and the street.  That is still the owners property, and if you do not ask cachers will be standing in front of someones home, climbing in trees, and poking around signs.  The cache owners (usually younger) seem shocked when I ask if they have permission.

I was surprised recently by a note pointing out that the BLM in Washington county has a geocaching policy.  You email them for permission to place the cache. It was a surprise to me, in that it was a year old, and had never been mentioned. I can say the same for National Wildlife Refuges, that (I was also informed last week) do not allow caches on their property.

Of course we have vast areas in Utah that are off limits, National Parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and Wilderness areas, are just a few.

Parks and Permits

It never ceases to amaze me the number of parks that have banned geocaching in the US.  How many places that we cannot participate because people are acting foolishly.

Or another bad step, having to pay an annual fee for a geocache on their property.  I heard that one land manager exclaim why?

  • We know who place it and who should be maintaining it
  • In the case of a bomb squad scare we know that it is there
  • A permit fee helps pay for the time of the person who approves it and might check on it.
  • A clean up of an area can identify that it is there so it will be left.

We all know of horrible caches.  A milk bottle or Pringles can full of a moldy slimy log, sitting on a dirt road corner with trash all around.  Picture a park manager that finds this or a broken Tupperware with trash in it, full of water, then finds out it is part of our game.  Why would he want to allow it?  I saw one in a broken bottle, near a kids playground.  The water green with algae that grew in it.  Caches placed where you have to climb a building, or tear apart a brick wall to find it.   I am sure they would not give a good image to geocaching when the land mangers find out.

Conclusion

A few years ago there was a serious attempt and discussion to close Utah Geocachers Association.  I told them I do not think it is a good idea. One day when someone wants to ban geocaching on their property, it would be good to have someone that might be listened to because they speak for the group. 

Give thought to what you place, try and make it nice, and get permission. No one wants a replay of Indiana in their own home state or town.

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