Forum: Questions And Answers About Geocaching
Topic: Interview with a Park Ranger
started by: Adomatis

Posted by Adomatis on April 29 2002,9:15 am
If you could anonymously ask a park ranger a question regarding geocaching, what would you ask?
I'm writing an article on geocaching and will be interviewing local authorities. I’d like to have your questions answered too. I will be focusing on issues of impact, maintenance, and “overcaching”, but I don’t want to miss an opportunity to ask other questions that would be of interest to this forum. In exchange for your Qs, I will post the completed article here.
Please reply,
Doug Adomatis
Posted by Gimpy on April 29 2002,10:06 am
Hi, Doug & welcome. I would be interested to know if the rangers believe that this activity is harmful to the environment or if they are just skeptical because they are unfamiliar with it. Just seems like they are not that perceptive to something new. I think that much more goes on in the parks that is more detrimental to the lands. I don't think they view caching as an activity that is enjoyed by, for the most part, mature individuals that understand & care for the parks system. :D
Posted by Scout on April 29 2002,11:04 am
Quote (Adomatis @ April 29 2002,05:15 am)
If you could anonymously ask a park ranger a question regarding geocaching, what would you ask?

What is the procedure for obtaining permission to place a cache in park land?
Posted by Quinn on April 29 2002,12:41 pm
hmm... I am not sure I would ask a Ranger anything until I was able to at least fully explain the pro's v con's of Geocaching in parks. For instance I would like to get the word out that cachers (for the most part) will pick up Garbage and debris that is laying around the area while heading in or out of a park during a caching adventure.

Gimpy, Caron and I all went after one a couple weeks back in a local park where we are located and right near the cache were several beer bottles (some broken), we picked them up after we found the cache and signed the logbook and packed them out to a garbage can.

Also I can't count the times where I have passed "Yardboy" up on the trails and noticed his hands were full of trash left behind by others.

A Cacher will place a small container in an area that can't be seen unless you are looking for it, but we remove much more trash than the single container we place.
I admit that trail wear is a problem at times, but the sites try to keep an eye on this by asking Cachers that if they see wear problems leading to a cache in sensitive area that they contact the cache owner as well as people involved with the site so that we can correct this by moving the cache to another spot or just retiring it all together.

I placed a cache in a great state park located in Virginia Beach (Houdini Cache) and while there I was able to find a couple others located within that same park, in the log book of one I was stunned to see a couple comments from the Rangers of that park that also found the cache.
In it was written how they heard about Geocaching and figured they would see what it was all about as well as if any harm was being done, they said they found the sport very interesting and loved the concept behind it. The log further went on to say they saw no harm at the present time and in their opinions thought the sport brought more people to the park (which is what got me there) the only thing besides that they said was to make sure that all park rules were followed and there would not be any problem with leaving the caches there.

So I think that once I was able to explain this to a Ranger I would then ask his/her views on the sport as well as ask if a trial period of a cache being placed could be obtained just so they could weigh these pro's and con's themselves.

By the way... you mentioned Article, may I ask is this for a paper or perhaps school?


Posted by mikechim on April 29 2002,1:00 pm
I couldn't agree with Quinn more.  The points he brings up are critical to the relationship between cachers and parks.  I've talked to several park rangers and after explaining to them what geocaching was (before I got a chance to talk about trashing out) they said they didn't see a problem with it.  I made sure however I had told them that caches aren't burried.  That is a far cry from the response I would expect if they found out about caching from some of the NPS reports going around that talk about geocaching as a sport where people search for BURIED caches.  It instantly brings up a picture of a bunch of people running around with pics and shovels tearing up the land.  

I also have to second the trashing out part, I've pulled a bag of garbage out of Presque Isle while I was placing one of my caches and while recently taking a photographer on a cache hunt for pics for a story in the paper I pulled out two large buckets filled with trash.  I'm not sure how wide spread the caching out thing is, I have a feeling that some casual cachers may not trash out that much, but I really feel the majority of the more serious cachers trash out frequently.
Posted by Hinge Thunder on April 29 2002,1:33 pm
My questions after the initial "what is your opinion" would be based on his answer. One thing I hear alot about is the amount of wear the cachers would cause. But it seems to me that the deeper in the park, or the rougher the terrain, would generate radically less traffic. Even looking local caches, a 1/1 cache will generate much more traffic than a 3/3 cache. It seems that there is a steep dropoff curve with the increase of difficulty. Even something so minimal as a mile walk. Or a slight bit of incline.

So I guess one question is if he thinks multitudes of geocachers would cause too much wear and tear getting to, and from the cache: How many geocachers does he think might visit a geocache in a remote place such as the top of Mt. Ranier?
Posted by Adomatis on April 29 2002,3:20 pm
All excellent replies so far - just what I'd hoped for.  The article will be limited circulation to patrons of my web site and local interests such as trail club newsletters and perhaps The Greenville News.  I believe time is of the essence here in the Carolinas as decisions are being made regarding the Park Systems and GeoCaching.  I plan to bring up the forgiveness v. permission issue but you can imagine the response.  Imagine if someone wanted to put a cookie jar in your cubical, wouldn't you want to know about it upfront?  The interview candidates I've chosen are advocates of the sport.  I want to ask them questions that will prompt them to explain how they think geocaching should be played.
Doug Adomatis
< Travel by GPS >
Posted by Road Kill on April 29 2002,6:01 pm
I've talked to Letchworth State Park personnel and got pretty much the same amswer. "Don't really know but can,'t see that any harm is being done".  I think it's good that they become more informed and it is to our advantage if they hear it first from a cacher. Bravo on your endevor.

Ditto on mentioning trash out. I too have a trunk full of stuff taken from a bad dump in Letchworth State Park. 2 car radios, several broken bottles, 3 plastic quart oil bottles plastic & paper bags, a plastic fender cowl and this was from one dump site along an infrequently used park road. I hope it wasn't caused by a cacher but it was cleaned up by one.

I think the big key is recreational parks vs wildlife preserves. There are a lot of Frisbee golf coarses, Bike paths, toboggan runs, play grounds, pools and such that cater to recreation. However, chasing a bird form its nest of eggs too frequently can be a problem whether intentional or not. One park I entered was for the bird watcher. It had signs warning of fines if you did not stay on the paths. They later pulled the caches from that park.

One other topic I've heard mentioned concerns liability and safety. My thoughts here are that it shouldn't be any different for cachers than it is for frisbee, biking, sliding, or hiking. Bottom line - Non issue.

Security - now here's an issue to ponder. My thoughts are if you haven't got anything to hide (no pun intended) then you can't get into trouble. It would be unlikely that a terrorist would walk into a wooded area to blow up log piles. Try putting the same box at an airport or at the base of a bridge and an observer should have concerns. If your intent was to cause disruption (like shouting "fire" in a crowded theater) then you could be in trouble.

Wow!  I just want to add my 2 cents. Looks like I should have some change coming back.  You report back to keep us up to date and I'll call it even.    :grinnin
Posted by Adomatis on May 12 2002,2:45 pm
Thanks to many of you here, I was ready with good questions. "Ranger Joe," gave me better answers than I had hoped for. You will find his words encouraging - if you are willing to play by the rules.

A (.pdf) formatted version of the entire article is available at
< www.travelbygps.com/articles >
Your comments are invited.



To get a park ranger's perspective on the topic of GeoCaching, Joe Anderson
has agreed to share his experiences with us. Joe is the manager of Mountain
Bridge Wilderness Area in South Carolina, which includes Caesars Head and
Jones Gap State Park. He represents the landowners on the Foothills Trail
Conference Board of Directors and is a Search and Rescue Instructor.

TbGPS: Joe, you must be familiar with GeoCaching because of all the caches
in your area. Tell me, in general, about the experience you've had as a park
ranger with GeoCaching in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness.

JA: I've never found a GeoCache that wasn't in an interesting place, and I'
ve never met a GeoCacher that wasn't an interesting person.

TbGPS: What is your impression of the type of people that GeoCache?

JA: GeoCachers are intelligent and educated, have a source of income and are
interested in protecting our natural resources. The state parks do not
necessarily need the support of the public, we need the support of an
informed public - GeoCachers tend to be informed.

TBG: Is there a specific story about a particular cache that typifies your
experience?

JA: Most of my pursuits have concentrated on those GeoCaches placed inside
parks. I do not participate in the sport in the conventional way as your
readers probably do. Though I have enjoyed using the GPS unit a couple of
times, the majority of my finds were accomplished by tracking GeoCachers -
identifying signs of impact for clues.

TbGPS: If I told you I wanted to place a GeoCache here in the park, what
would be your reply?

JA: Well I'd say, let's talk. How can your anticipated GeoCache experience
complement my desired park experience? Then, we'll talk about some
possible locations. I'd also ask you what your plans are for maintaining
the cache.

TbGPS: Alternatively, if I informed you that I had already placed a Cache
here and now wanted permission (forgiveness), what would be your reply?

JA: Of all the caches (there have been as many as 6 at one time) located
within the boundaries of the park, no one has asked permission first and
that disappoints me. Now, some have come after the fact and I've
appreciated that. There are not so many that are impacting the park that I'
m on a campaign to reduce the number, so I probably wouldn't tell you to
remove it as long as it's in an appropriate location. The Mountain Bridge
Wilderness Area will never become 'GeoCache State Park.' Too many GeoCache
sites may impact the desired experience for those participating in the
sport. At times I wonder though. when there does get to be too many, and
someone does come to ask permission to place another cache. what about those
who didn't ask permission first? Should those caches be removed to make
room for a cache placed by someone who played by the rules?

TbGPS: How many caches in your area would you consider to be too many?

JA: GeoCaching is relatively new to the park. Though I do not have an answer
to the question today, I do anticipate the day will come when I will be able
to. I don't believe we have too many - yet. I do believe you can have too
many in small areas. Sesquicentennial Park, for example, has 6 and I think
that is too many.

TbGPS: Tell me what you call a good cache or a bad cache?

JA: Any cache that is in a dangerous or environmentally sensitive location
makes me apprehensive. A good cache can become a not-so-good cache if its
not properly maintained. The cache owner needs to be committed to making
sure that 1) everyone looking for the cache has the desired experience, and
2) the area around the cache is not being adversely impacted. I like the
idea of virtual caches in locations where human impact has been anticipated,
like caches placed at monuments. I have to back up a little and say that I'
m not so sure that caches placed in and around historical structures are a
good idea. For example, shell ring at Edisto Beach State Park that was
built by the Native Americans. When pictures appeared on the web of people
standing on the ring, the land manager had the cache removed and no longer
tolerates GeoCaching on the property.

TbGPS: How do you use the online forums to manage caches in the park?

JA: Well for example, the Wildcat Wayside cache had been located within 30
feet of an endangered plant and there were tracks all around it, some within
inches of doing some real damage. I notified the cache owners by posting a
message to the cache's online log. The cache owners were very responsive.
They voluntarily gave a 30 day notice before moving the cache so that
cachers currently seeking the cache would not venture all over trying to
find it.

TbGPS: Earlier you said that you GeoCache yourself - without a GPS.
Explain how you do that.

JA: Our agency has used GeoCache locations to train Search and Rescue
teams. GeoCaching is a great tool to teach others how to track the movement
of people through the natural and wilderness areas.

TbGPS: How have you seen the Cache-in / Trash-out program at work in your
area?

JA: Caesars Head and Jones Gap State Parks collectively form the Mountain
Bridge Wilderness Area. The "Trash-out" program complements our "Project
Green" program. For example - Jones Gap is a "trash-free" park. Patrons to
the park will find no trash cans - they are expected to comply with a higher
standard of stewardship of "pack-it-in pack-it-out." Classified as a special
resource, everyone is asked to participate in the stewardship of the place -
whether picnicking, hiking, backpacking, or GeoCaching. The trash out
program is an interesting campaign. Many of the opponents to GeoCaching
consider the practice to be a form of littering in itself. I do not
interpret the cache as a garbage or refuse form of litter. I see the sport
as an interpretive tool and possibly a marketing opportunity. Case in
point, simply by answering this question I have taken the opportunity to
introduce our Project Green program to your readers.

TbGPS: Do you have any other ideas about ways to have fun with GPS in the
park?

JA: The fun in GeoCaching is the hike. Many of the caches I found outside
the park have taken me to places that I didn't know existed, which I have
since returned to enjoy. For example, I liked the Furman University cache
because it was right off the running trail so there was no additional impact
with all the traffic the location gets anyway. I never knew about that
trail, but I liked it so much that I've returned to Morgan Meditation with
my wife and kids to enjoy sunny afternoons.

TbGPS: What can you tell me about decisions that are being made in South
Carolina with regard to GeoCaching?

JA: The South Carolina State Park Service has taken notice of the sport. I
trust that any policy we adopt will be based on informed decisions. We are
in the process of establishing guidelines for GeoCaching activities on state
parks. Currently, the individual park management plans will guide park
managers when making decisions about the recreational activities managed on
the park.

TbGPS: Any final thoughts you like to leave our readers with?

JA: GeoCaching is a great tool for introducing visitors to the real value
of a park's resources. Properly informed, the people coming to GeoCache in
the park can be real assets to helping us protect not only the park's flora
and fauna, but also the recreational opportunities it has to offer. As one
who has been entrusted with the stewardship of these resources, I believe
GeoCaching, like any other recreational activity the park has to offer, can
be managed to maximize the benefits to all park visitors.

TbGPS: Thanks Joe.

- Doug Adomatis

< Travel by GPS >
Posted by Quinn on May 12 2002,4:24 pm
You did a great job of covering some very interesting as well as important topics about Geocaching and the parks they are placed within. I wish that all state lands and parks had Rangers as understanding and open minded as Joe.

This information could go a long way in helping other rangers that are uncertain as to what to do about the sport, i hope they also take the same steps as Joe has and give it a chance.

Once things are rolling then both the parks people and Geocachers together can better see what further steps need to be taken to protect both land and sport.

Your site is very interesting indeed and the fact that it covers many forms of information for the outdoors sportsman /woman only makes it that much better.
The only downside I can see to it is that there is no Navicache link on it (cough-cough)  :grinnin

You have done a top notch job and deserve a hardy pat on the back...maybe even a kiss on the cheek by one of our girly cachers  :love
Posted by Hinge Thunder on May 12 2002,5:54 pm
The few posts I have seen from park rangers, have said that people should ask. Has anyone had any experiences asking park rangers for permission to place a cache? What kind of responses have you gotten?
Posted by DxChallenged on May 12 2002,8:03 pm
And which side of the cheek would that be on?  :^:

I think that I'de go for a hug myself......I have yet to meet any rangers on the trail but did meet a most excellent navicacher the other day.......   :oo:

Must say that we check on our caches often.....Mike checked on the HObbit Bag end cache today.....not finders yet but GPS brought  him to within 18 feet......put a ribbon in there for first finder and even have a bag of silver inside......guess that I will just have to be patient.......Was thinking of adding extra hints for just the navicachers......Would it help?

Can't wait for my caseload to lower.....this is peak time for me....haven't even been able to do any solo caching yet.....Maybe in July.......so I'll keep the rangers in mind  :grinnin

Great bunch of comments!!

DxChallenged
Posted by Road Kill on May 13 2002,5:34 pm
As you said, it was encouraging.  Not much else I can think to say here except this is a very fine artical. I thank you for your time to put this together and I thank ranger Joe Anderson as well.   :p
Posted by YardBoy on May 14 2002,1:27 am
Wow.  Ranger Joe is sharp.  My appreciation for his job went up a notch.

I took notice of his comments regarding tracks within feet of an endangered plant.  His concerns mirror some of my earlier posts:
1. when off the trail, walk toe-to-heel, carefully reducing your impact
2. avoid newly trampled paths & take a different route out
3. reduce the size of caching groups at any one location & educate/monitor newbies

I'll be asking authorities before placing my next NaviCache.  I anticpate some rejections, not that unusual in my life    ;0o
Posted by axcion on Nov. 09 2003,10:39 pm
Today I traveled 40 miles to a historical site that is administered by the National Park Service.

I went in and had a pleasant chat with the ranger on duty.

I politely informed him that I would like to place a cache at the site, and that I would like permission. I also let him know that I had visited the nps.gov web site and that some parks allow it, and that some didn't.

He seemed primarially concerned with a) where exactly I wanted to place it. (Only at a location approved by them!) b)If it was to be buried (NO), who would be maintaining it (me!), and general concern about traffic etc....

I tried to let him know that I would only place one there if they gave the approval, only place it at a location they approved, and that I would be the one responsible for it's maintenance.

According to the particular parks Master Plan, the park has been experiencing a decline in use as there are competeing places in the area, and it's location.

I left a copy of the "stash note" with him.

He is going to pass along my request to the top ranger and the parks legal department, and said that they would be happy to get back to me in a day or two.

Cross your fingers!

axcion

Posted by PC Medic on Nov. 10 2003,4:39 am
Might also be worth pointing out to them that according to < This BLM Document > geocaching is concidered acceptable use of public lands. Of course there are the conditions which are understandable.
Posted by Volvo Man on Nov. 22 2003,5:35 pm
I note that ranger joe made a very valid point about geocachers, namely, they have a source of income and are informed. to put it in a catchphrase, you could call our community part of the "Silicon Dollar", ie technically aware persons who have disposable income to spend on hardware etc, and therefore probably contribute to the parks income as well. Also, as he said, we are generally interested in preservation of the environment.

This should be encouraged as, whilst I know that there are many "older" cachers, there is also a large proportion of the technology generation, and it is those people that will play a major part in shaping the landscape of the future. Encouraging an interest in maintaining natural environments amongst this generation will ensure that the technonogical society of tomorrow will still appreciate and preserve the natural environment, or still better increase the ammount of natural space by pushing urban renewal and clearing disused industrial areas to allow nature to reclaim the land faster,

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