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Please critique my "Hand-Out"


pgrig

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Sometimes I meet a particularly sceptical property owner who wants to see "something in writing" about what I am up to searching for a benchmark.

 

With this in mind, I have drafted the following language to use as a "hand-out" to be given to folks who ask me for one. Please tell me what you think of this.

 

Thanks!

 

_____________________

 

NGS Benchmark Recovery

 

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is a federal agency charged with maintaining the national database that describes the hundreds of thousands of “benchmarks” used to make maps and locate points in the United States. There are over 7,000 benchmarks in Massachusetts. The NGS website is located at www.ngs.noaa.gov.

 

These benchmarks have been set by surveyors and engineers from the federal and state governments since the 1800’s. Although these benchmarks are not part of surveying lots for homeowners, local surveyors sometimes can and do “tie-in” to them to locate their surveys within the national grid.

 

Often these benchmarks consist of metallic disks about 3” in diameter with embossed letters that are cemented into concrete posts buried in the ground. The posts may protrude from the ground by several inches, be flush with the surface, or be buried some inches underground. Other benchmarks consist of drill holes or marks chiseled into ledges, rivets driven into rocks, or iron bars hammered into the ground, to name a few other types.

 

Over the years, neighborhoods change and some benchmarks may become difficult to find again, or “recover.” Some marks are destroyed by new construction. To help make sure that the national network of marks remains useful, volunteers frequently go out to visit the indicated positions of old marks to report on their updated condition.

 

A site visit to an old benchmark can include taking measurements to the mark from reported references (like houses, power poles, or fire hydrants) , uncovering buried marks, and taking pictures of the marks and their surroundings. This information is then reported to databases maintained by the NGS and by volunteer groups.

 

By permitting a benchmark recovery volunteer to search for and uncover an old mark on your property, you are helping to maintain our nation’s geographic information resources. Thank you for your cooperation!

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FX--

 

Please go ahead and nitpick. The folks to whom this is addressed seem to be nitpickers by nature! ;)

 

I thought it would just be a regular 8.5 x 11" sheet, and I would keep a few copies on the clipboard I use for my data sheets.

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Please go ahead and nitpick. The folks to whom this is addressed seem to be nitpickers by nature! ;)

 

I thought it would just be a regular 8.5 x 11" sheet, and I would keep a few copies on the clipboard I use for my data sheets.

Okay, nitpicking then. My suggestions are in red. ;) 8.5 x 11 would probably be cheaper. I was thinking a half-vertical piece would be smaller and easier, but.. thinking about it, it probably WOULDN'T be easier, carrying around leaflets. :wub:

 

_____________________

 

NGS Benchmark Recovery

 

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is a federal agency charged with maintaining the national database that describes the hundreds of thousands of “benchmarks” used to make maps and locate points in the United States. There are over 7,000 benchmarks in Massachusetts. The NGS website is located at www.ngs.noaa.gov.

 

These benchmarks have been set by surveyors and engineers from the federal and state governments since the 1800’s. Although these benchmarks are not part of surveying lots for homeowners, local surveyors sometimes can and sometimes “tie-in” to them to locate their surveys within the national grid.

 

Often these benchmarks consist of metallic disks about 3” in diameter with embossed letters that are cemented into concrete posts buried in the ground. The posts may protrude from the ground by several inches, be flush with the surface, or be buried some inches underground. Other benchmarks consist of drill holes or marks chiseled into ledges, rivets driven into rocks, or iron bars hammered into the ground, to name a few other types.

 

Over the years, neighborhoods change and some benchmarks may become difficult to find again, or “recover.” Some marks are even destroyed by new construction. To help make sure that the national network of marks remains useful and up to date, volunteers frequently go out to visit the indicated positions of old marks to report on their updated current condition.

 

A site visit to an old benchmark can include taking measurements to the mark from reported references (like houses, power poles, or fire hydrants), uncovering buried marks, and taking pictures of the marks and their surroundings. This information is then reported to databases maintained by the NGS and by volunteer groups.

 

By permitting a benchmark recovery volunteer to search for and uncover an old mark on your property, you are helping to maintain our nation’s geographic information resources. Thank you for your cooperation!

 

Good job on it, again. I'm thinking that I may steal it and use if necessary. I'll give you credit, of course..! :wub:

 

Cheers,

Mike.

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NGS GEOCAC Benchmark Recovery

 

The National Geodetic Survey (NGS) is a Federal agency charged with maintaining the National Database that describes the hundreds of thousands of “benchmarks” used to make maps and locate points in the United States. There are over 7,000 benchmarks in Massachusetts.

The NGS website is located at www.ngs.noaa.gov

 

These benchmarks have been set by Surveyors and Engineers from the Federal and State governments since Founded in the 1800’s by Thomas Jefferson. Although these benchmarks are not part of land surveying of lots for homeowners, local surveyors sometimes can and sometimes “tie-in” to them to locate their surveys within the national grid.

 

Often these benchmarks consist of metallic disks about 3” in diameter with embossed letters that are cemented into concrete posts buried in the ground. The posts may protrude from the ground by several inches, be flush with the surface, or be buried some inches underground. Other benchmarks consist of drill holes or marks chiseled into ledges, rivets driven into rocks, or iron bars hammered into the ground, just to name a few other types.

 

Over the years, neighborhoods change and some benchmarks may become difficult to find again, or “recover.” Some marks are even destroyed by new construction. To help make sure that the national network of marks remains useful and up to date, GEOCAC Volunteers frequently go out to visit the indicated positions of old marks to report on their current condition.

 

A site visit to an old benchmark can include taking measurements to the mark from reported references (like houses, power poles, or fire hydrants), uncovering buried marks, and taking pictures of the marks and their surroundings. This information is then reported by GEOCAC to the database maintained by the NGS and by the GEOCAC and other volunteer groups.

 

By permitting a GEOCAC benchmark recovery volunteer to search for and uncover an old mark on your property, you are helping to maintain our nation’s geographic information resources.

 

Thank you for your cooperation!

 

Here my pluck at it.

Nice job.

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By all means, please Steal My Words! ;)

 

Good suggestions!

 

I have found that my most suspicious homeowners worry that (1) I am from the city/town government, building a file on them, or following up on that permit/reassessment/etc. they applied for; (2) I am a surveyor hired by their neighbor and trying to futz with their property line and steal their land; (3) I am a terrorist scoping out their neighborhood (or in one case, Boston Harbor) for an attack. I believe they'll feel better with a piece of paper in their hand. Sometimes I check in with the local police dept. or Public Works if I need access to a locked reservoir, standpipe, etc. I think they'd like something "for their files".

 

I don't think I want to get into explaining what GEOCAC is. Too much detail... ;)

 

I actually have "business cards" that I give homeowners now that give my addr and telephone. I'll probably put this info on the hand-out as well. I could then leave it in the mailbox of homeowners who were out but whose property I really wanted to hunt on.

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By all means, please Steal My Words! ;)

 

Good suggestions!

 

I have found that my most suspicious homeowners worry that (1) I am from the city/town government, building a file on them, or following up on that permit/reassessment/etc. they applied for; (2) I am a surveyor hired by their neighbor and trying to futz with their property line and steal their land; (3) I am a terrorist scoping out their neighborhood (or in one case, Boston Harbor) for an attack. I believe they'll feel better with a piece of paper in their hand. Sometimes I check in with the local police dept. or Public Works if I need access to a locked reservoir, standpipe, etc. I think they'd like something "for their files".

 

I don't think I want to get into explaining what GEOCAC is. Too much detail... ;)

 

I actually have "business cards" that I give homeowners now that give my addr and telephone. I'll probably put this info on the hand-out as well. I could then leave it in the mailbox of homeowners who were out but whose property I really wanted to hunt on.

 

I will still your words...... :wub:

GEOCAC is YOU.

 

In one sentence.

It is Your "Official Designation" at the NGS.

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It is "1800s", not "1800's".

 

The proliferation of acronyms we use today has resulted in people being uncertain about how to pluralize them, and they seem to feel more comfortable adding a separator before the "s" (PC's, TV's, et al).

 

Dates do not require an apostrophe, but when you are tempted to add an apostrophe to any other acronym or word, ask if it owns anything in the sentence. "The TVs in our house are all high def.", and "The TV's volume button was not working."

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Being a skeptic myself, I think you may be trying to hard.

 

Personally, if someone handed me a paper that involved, I would be inclined to wonder what they were ''really up to". I would take a quick glance at it and hand it right back to the person who gave it to me.

 

It is always better to keep it short and simple and avoid trying to appear as someone affiliated with the NGS. Your paper may cause people to start calling to find out who you are really working for. If they get in touch with the NGS and ask about the volunteer who came by their home what type of answer do you think they will get from the NGS? Remember that you are only doing this as a hobby and are Not a volunteer of the NGS and have no official standing with them as such.

 

For the skeptical homeowner it is probably better to just give them a copy of the datasheet and request permission to "verify the condition" of the "survey disk". The GC.com benchmark page works wonders when dealing with the homeowner.

 

John

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I tend to agree w/ 2OFs on this one. I've toyed w/ bringing a handout, but found that the Wacky Hobbyist® approach works pretty darned well. I usually print an extra NGS datasheet, & topo map to leave with a landowner if a mark is well within their property - they usually find them interesting and welcome the explanation of what these disks/bolts/posts are really for. I usually follow up that I make reports to the NGS since it makes the fruits of the wacky hobby useful to someone else i.e., professionals...

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I agree with the last 2 responses.

 

I think the datasheet copy is the best idea and giving them a handout is a bad idea. Its starts to make you look official and that could get you into trouble someday.

 

I tell people I am looking for a particular survey mark because I an interested in local history (true) and these marks are part of the local history and its on their property. Most times the property owner is interested in that and will be cooperative, sometimes they could care less. I don't dare mention anything about the gov''t as I know from my years of working for the state DOT that many a time people get all agitated when they hear any mention of that.

Edited by Z15
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Yeah I heard that..

I heard I wus an undercover agent for the FBI.

All I was a doin was looking to a spy.

We gonna take and move your marks tis all I heard em say.

An out the driveway the gravel it did spray the shotgun they had was pointed in our way.

We don't read out here in the lonesome sticks.

And I better not hear yu call us just some ole hicks.

e know where them marks are and protect em well.

So get your a.. on out a here or I will stick you in the wellllllllllllllllllllll.

 

Just some humor.

You gotta do what you gotta do sometimes.

Politeness and Courtesy go a long ways.

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I was real pleased to get a call yesterday from a homeowner who had asked me for "more information", proceeded to talk to her husband over night, and called me the next morning to say, "Come on down!" (and continue to hunt in their front yard).

 

I had unknowingly followed The Ernmark Approach, leaving them my copy of the Description and printed Google map [a good idea, since it's easy to print another later if I need it, and if they don't call back, I won't need it anyway :D ].

 

I hadn't really thought about "what NGS would say" if someone called them to ask "what was going on" with a "volunteer visit." I guess I would hope that they value our work (I'm sure trying hard to do better as I go along) and would explain benchmark hunting to the caller. [in reality, if a homeowner is suspicious enough to go calling NGS, I've probably already lost the chance to visit them again. :D ]

 

For me, an important part of why I do this is the belief that my effort has an important public purpose. If this isn't true, I could probably cut back the time I spend on "procedure" by about 80%, just put down "Found mark," and be done with it. Actually, I guess I couldn't really deal with that...

 

I should also say that I'm usually very pleased with the friendly response I get from property owners (and around here about 75% of the older marks that I hunt are on private property). I would say seriously suspicious or downright hostile folks account for less than 5% of my visits.

 

Thanks to all for your comments!

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I have to throw in with Ernmark and Z15. Giving them something to read will be too complex and time consuming. I just tell them what I am looking for and only go into any sort of detail if they ask or seem confused.

 

Most don't know what I am looking for. If they do they are usually quick to point it out or tell me how to get to it. If they don't they look puzzled and say "go ahead". Rarely, they are interested in what I want to find. Even more rarely, they come along or offer to help. Recently I had the offer to use a person's ATV to get to the top of the mountain behind his house to get to Topton (I turned it down, primarily because I have never ridden one and didn't want to get injured by getting into a dangerous situation on it, plus I simply need the exercise. It turned out I never would have survived the trip on an ATV--the terrain was too steep and rocky to ride without experience).

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I hadn't really thought about "what NGS would say" if someone called them to ask "what was going on" with a "volunteer visit." I guess I would hope that they value our work (I'm sure trying hard to do better as I go along) and would explain benchmark hunting to the caller.

 

I am almost 100% possitive we would get a GOOD Report from the NGS.

I do not speak for them but have spoken to several of them.

 

As long as you are not breaking the Law or unruly I would imagine it would go very well.

I did have Law Enforcement call the TNMC The National Map Corps on a visit to a FAA building.

 

Won't go into details again but all went very well.

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My vote is with those who suggested not using a hand-out. If you were a stranger on my property and you handed me something to read, I would not even glance at the paper. I want my eyes to be on YOU at all times.

 

Keep things verbal. My technique is to grin and say, "Let me tell you why I'm NOT here. We're not doing this to widen the road or to raise your taxes." This usually gets a laugh, followed by, "Well, in that case, go ahead with whatever you're working on!" The only time (out of several hundred encounters) that this was not successful was with an elderly lady who was upset because a surveyor used a buried mark in her lawn without "fixin' her yard back".

 

Many times, I have given away my paper data sheet to a property owner. They seem to like having it--especially if it has an aerial photo attached. (In such situations, I make notes on another piece of paper. I can reprint the data sheet when I get home.)

 

Likewise, "business cards" are not recommended. Leaving contact information can lead to calls from concerned adult children, wanting to know why you were on Mama's property, or a call from a law enforcement officer who got a distorted version of how the encounter with the property owner went. And it never is good. (Ask me, sometime, how I know--Grin.)

 

Whether you use written or verbal communication, here's an important element of hobbist-to-owner communication. Keep plenty of distance between you and the other person. If you "close in" on them, it is intimidating. For example, if you knock on the door of a home, immediately step off the porch/steps. The 10 feet of distance will encourage the owner to open the door, rather than speaking to you through a crack. If they are approaching you in the open, wave and greet them while they are some distance away, and let them set the closeness of the encounter.

 

And that brings me to another argument against giving people something in writing. You have to get too close in order to hand it to them. When I leave my data sheet, it happens at the end of the encounter, rather than at the beginning. My first mission is to "make a friend". Once that is accomplished, my handing over the data sheet (i.e,, giving them something) seals the friendship.

 

By the way, pgrig, I looked through your recoveries, and you're doing a great job! Keep up the good work, and never hesitate to post a question to the group or to individuals. It is said that experience is the best teacher. Well, that's wrong. It's too expensive. Someone ELSE's experience is the best teacher. [Grin]

Edited by PFF
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Most don't know what I am looking for. If they do they are usually quick to point it out or tell me how to get to it. If they don't they look puzzled and say "go ahead". Rarely, they are interested in what I want to find.

 

My limited experience has been much the same. I've had couple of contacts from people asking what I was looking for--all on their property, but right next to the highway. One was across the street from a residence, and it wasn't clear who the property owner was, and the other was at a motel with a large front yard, and the mark was clearly marked and next to the highway, so I didn't ask first. I've explained the hobby, and showed them the particulars of "their" mark. I've also given them the datasheet for their particular mark.

 

I've also had several case where the mark was clearly on private property. I spoke to the homeowners and have always received permission to search for the marks. One knew exactly where it was located and offered to take me to it. I wouldn't have needed the help, as it was a triangulation station, but welcomed it anyway. He also knew about one of the reference marks, but I was able to show him the second one, which he was not aware of. I also gave him the datasheet and encouraged him to check back in a month or two (the URL is at the top of the sheet) to see an updated online version with my recovery report.

 

I also had one case where I talked to a property owner who turned out to be very helpful even though the mark was NOT on his property. I explained what I was doing and asked to cut through his back yard to find a mark along a railroad ROW. His property bordered the tracks, and my alternative was to access the ROW at a crossing and walk at least a half mile. He not only said yes, but led me right to the mark.

 

I agree that keeping things verbal, rather than providing a detailed written explanation is the better way to go. I think in this case NOT being affiliated with the government is probably a plus. If the conversation is going well, I will add that while I do it for a hobby, I do submit a report on my findings to the NGS so that their records can be updated.

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Thanks to all...And PFF, thanks for the encouragement as well; coming from you, it's much appreciated!

 

Even so, and after thinking over my past 7 months' experience, I think my handout would have been helpful in many situations (and ill-advised in others).

 

My standard approach to a homeowner is to ring their doorbell and then retreat a good distance, usually back down their front steps to the front walk, or down to the next level of their staircase (well out of the range of being able to barge suddenly into their home). I also take off my sunglasses and put myself where I can be seen clearly from their front window. I often have a bit of my "uniform" on (floppy orange sun hat and/or orange safety vest), and this seems to make me look less "suspicious."

 

I agree that you have to be careful of peoples' "space," but for me it's also important to recognize that since I do a fair amount of "suburban benchmarking" ("urban search in fescue" B) ) and often on weekdays (I'm semi-retired), I will often be encountering the woman of the house, home alone.

 

I usually have the datasheet with me as I explain why I'm there, request permission to look on their property, and if necessary probe the ground, or even dig a small hole (since about 25% of the marks I hunt, being older, are below ground). I have even recently found a super new tool that makes almost "surgical" incisions in peoples' front yards--it's a narrow gardener's trowel by Ames I got at True Value that has both edges sharpened or serrated and a double pointed tip; it cuts neat "divots" out of sod that I can neatly replace afterwards. No complaints so far.

 

This usually goes quite smoothly. A someone mentioned, I emphasize that this does NOT have anything to do with surveying their property and I'm NOT "from the city." (I once had to listen to a long harangue on why last season's snowplowing performance by the city was lackluster!) I do often point out that finding the mark may help them down the line if they DO run into property boundary difficulties, since local surveyors can "tie-in" to them, and this has gotten their positive attention on several occasions. In about 75% of my stops, I don't need to give them any written or contact info. They're happy to see me or dead-set against it.

 

I see the "handout" as useful when [a] the homeowner seems to want some "proof" of what I'm up to, the owner doesn't understand the basic idea of benchmarks or why someone who doesn't work for the government would be out visiting them, or [c] I find a "not at home" and want someone to call me later so I can get their permission to visit. [i have had two very positive experiences with this in the past week, when one lady who wanted to wait until her husband returned and one man who was out shopping responded that afternoon or the next morning to a card I left at their house.] I have also had good response in situations in which I have left my contact info (calling card) and/or the datasheets w/Google Map attached on their doorstep with a request for a phone call.

 

As for identifying myself, I'd rather be up-front about it than try to do my work anonomously. In many cases, I need to come back to the same town again and again to hunt, and I'd rather not have a "who was that man?" attitude circulating around. In several situations I have stopped by or called the police station (or Public Works, or the Water Dept.) to indicate that I was around, explain my purpose, or request access to gated areas. Maybe I'm just a newbie, but this has always gone smoothly so far.

 

I too have also had several owners lead me right to the mark I was hunting; they tend in my experience to be more allies than enemies.

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I'm glad you mentioned removing your sunglasses. That's an important part of the process! Thanks for the reminder....

 

 

It strikes me that this is like having a part in a play. We memorize our lines. We wear our costumes. And we have our props. [Grin.]

 

 

-Paul-

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Hi, "pgrig." I'm just back from 10 days in Ontario so am coming in late to this discussion, but will throw out a couple of ideas. I don't have an opinion on whether you should provide a handout, so will just suggest a couple of edits if you do.

 

I agree with FX's changes, but I think one sentence got a little munged. It currently reads, "Although these benchmarks are not part of surveying lots for homeowners, local surveyors sometimes can and sometimes 'tie-in' to them to locate their surveys within the national grid." The "sometimes can and sometimes 'tie-in'" part is confusing. I recommend avoiding the surveying terminology ("tie in" and "national grid") and making the last part of the sentence more succinct, thusly: "local surveyors sometimes use them to determine their own location more accurately."

 

I would also delete the reference to "recover," and end that sentence after "difficult to find again." I have found that many people think the word "recover" means "remove." (As indeed, it often does in common English.) So it's a bit scary, creating images of digging up yards and taking things away.

 

"mloser" is right that "1800s" should not have an apostrophe.

 

And I agree with those who recommend against referring to the GEOCAC agency designation. It's confusing and jargony.

 

Hope these comments helped!

 

Patty

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