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Stillwater/Washington County Residents (Stillwater Gazette)

 
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Marsha and Silent Bob
Past MnGCA President


Joined: 02 Sep 2003

Posts: 6261

PostPosted: Wed May 31, 2006 8:35 am    Post subject: Stillwater/Washington County Residents (Stillwater Gazette) Reply with quote

I'm looking for someone in Stillwater (or Washington County) to speak with a reporter from the Stillwater Gazette about Washington County's "new", more open, geocaching policy.

If you are interested, please get back to me privately ASAP.
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Marsha and Silent Bob
Past MnGCA President


Joined: 02 Sep 2003

Posts: 6261

PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 9:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A nice article appeared in the Stillwater Gazette on Thursday: http://www.stillwatergazette.com/articles/2006/06/02/news/news320.txt

Quote:
STILLWATER - It's sometimes hard to get the family out for a hike through one of Washington County's parks.

But tell them they're on a treasure hunt using a global positioning system (GPS), and they'll likely jump at the chance.

The Washington County Board of Commissioners recently approved a change to its parks policy that further allows for "geocaching," an increasingly popular activity that asks people to hunt for items (caches) that fellow geocachers have hidden in public places. They use GPS devices to track down the caches.

"This is a worldwide activity," said Washington County Parks Senior Planner John Elholm. "It's a high-tech treasure hunt."

As long as geocachers keep the hidden item or items out of environmentally sensitive areas and do not dig holes or disturb the parks in other ways, county officials don't have a problem with the game. It's become popular at the Lake Elmo Park Reserve, Pine Point Park and elsewhere throughout the county.

With 100,000 players worldwide and 5,000 in Minnesota, the activity has boomed since its inception with the government allowance of increasingly accurate GPS devices, said Bill Roehl, president of the Minnesota Geocaching Association.

At geocaching.com, people can simply enter their zip code to find hidden caches near their home. Some caches were recently uncovered at Stillwater's Pioneer Park and in Bayport.

Families mostly engage in the activity, Elholm said, though individuals also take part. But Roehl said everyone from infants to seniors have gotten out on a hunt, adding that most geocachers are between 30 and 50 years old.

Although Elholm acknowledged that the activity draws people to the Washington County parks, he said county officials neither support nor discourage geocaching.

"As long as people are being respectful and not damaging the environment, then we're OK with it," Elholm said.

For the most part, Roehl said, those who seek out the caches take great care not to disturb the environment. The Minnesota Geocaching Association even has a "cache in, trash out" policy that asks participants to gather debris in trash bags as they leave a public area.

"We're very good at self-policing," he said. "We do our best to work with park departments."

Just as the county's park policies had to be redrawn with the advent of Rollerblades and studded tracks on snowmobiles, park officials had to respond to geocaching, Parks Manager and Stillwater Councilman Mike Polehna said.

"Things are evolving all the time," he said. "We're always trying to adjust to the needs of the people."

The activity gets people to enjoy the parks, Polehna said, and has been around for several years.

"There's a lot of people that are into it," he said, noting that park officials haven't heard too many problems about the geocachers.

The caches can be anything from a piece of paper to a sign to a collection of baseball cards. They're listed by degree of difficulty from one to five, with five being the toughest to find and sometimes requiring a boat or rock-climbing equipment, Roehl said. But the average cache takes only 10 or 15 minutes to find.

One inventive cache Roehl heard about was a rubber arm attached to a container hidden in the stump of a rotting tree. It was called the "pull my finger" cache.

Strapping on his in-line skates at Pine Point Park Wednesday, Stillwater resident Matt McGuire said he'd heard of geocaching, but never participated.

"I think that'd be pretty cool," he said.

McGuire remembers when people would engage in orienteering, finding flags in parks and wooded areas using compasses.

"It would definitely be cool with the new technology," he said.

If not for geocaching, Roehl said he would never have visited some of Minnesota's more remote areas, such as the Iron Range. Some people try out geocaching once and never do it again, he said, while others are hooked.

"There are some people, like me, who are hopelessly addicted," Roehl said.

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northtrekker
Geocacher


Joined: 23 Jul 2004

Posts: 115

PostPosted: Mon Jun 05, 2006 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great article! Gotta love that last line!
Not everyone understands this addiction!
Nice job with the interview!
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