"gps_maps" <>
Sent: 5/12/2002 3:50:42 PM

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
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
has agreed to share his experiences with us. Joe is the manager of
Bridge Wilderness Area in South Carolina, which includes Caesars Head
Jones Gap State Park. He represents the landowners on the Foothills
Conference Board of Directors and is a Search and Rescue Instructor.

TbGPS: Joe, you must be familiar with GeoCaching because of all the
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

JA: Most of my pursuits have concentrated on those GeoCaches placed
parks. I do not participate in the sport in the conventional way as
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,
would be your reply?

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

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

JA: Of all the caches (there have been as many as 6 at one time)
within the boundaries of the park, no one has asked permission first
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
remove it as long as it's in an appropriate location. The Mountain
Wilderness Area will never become 'GeoCache State Park.' Too many
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,
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
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
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
many in small areas. Sesquicentennial Park, for example, has 6 and I
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
makes me apprehensive. A good cache can become a not-so-good cache if
not properly maintained. The cache owner needs to be committed to
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
idea of virtual caches in locations where human impact has been
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
standing on the ring, the land manager had the cache removed and no
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
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
They voluntarily gave a 30 day notice before moving the cache so that
cachers currently seeking the cache would not venture all over trying
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
of people through the natural and wilderness areas.

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

JA: Caesars Head and Jones Gap State Parks collectively form the
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
standard of stewardship of "pack-it-in pack-it-out." Classified as a
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
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
as an interpretive tool and possibly a marketing opportunity. Case in
point, simply by answering this question I have taken the opportunity
introduce our Project Green program to your readers.

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

JA: The fun in GeoCaching is the hike. Many of the caches I found
the park have taken me to places that I didn't know existed, which I
since returned to enjoy. For example, I liked the Furman University
because it was right off the running trail so there was no additional
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
my wife and kids to enjoy sunny afternoons.

TbGPS: What can you tell me about decisions that are being made in
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
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
and fauna, but also the recreational opportunities it has to offer.
As one
who has been entrusted with the stewardship of these resources, I
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