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Re: Interview with a Park Ranger (The Article, Longish)


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.

(Picking up the article after some introduction about getcaching...)

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.

by Doug Adomatis
www.travelbygps.com