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Interview wiith a Park Ranger (the article, longish)

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Thanks to many of you here in the forums, I was ready with good questions. "Ranger Joe," as he is known in the logs, 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.



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



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



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



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

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