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> WA State Parks Revises Geocaching Directive!, New guidelines make it easier to place caches
post Jan 13 2013, 05:00 AM
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Group: Individual Member
Posts: 1,357
Joined: 15-October 08
From: Newcastle, WA
Member No.: 180
Chapter: Puget Sound
Expires: 12/31/2017

I'm thrilled to announce that, based on discussions with WSGA, Washington State Parks (WSPRC) revised its Geocaching Directive in December 2012 to make it easier for geocachers to place and maintain caches in state parks. Woo hoo!

The changes are substantial - they adopted everything we requested! - but the key ones to know:
  • WSGA is identified in the Directive as the organization representing geocachers in Washington State.
  • Permits are now approved primarily by park managers, who will coordinate the stewardship review in a timely fashion. An entire layer of approval has been eliminated (sending them to regional managers for sign-off, which is where they usually got stuck).
  • Permits no longer have to be renewed annually. They can have unspecified end dates, unless the park manager says otherwise.
  • You are no longer required to physically check on your caches every 90 days. "Adequate oversight and maintenance" can be handled via monitoring of online logs, with visits only as needed to keep the cache in good condition.
  • If a cache has issues and/or must be removed and the owner is not responsive, WSGA will be notified and given a chance to handle the situation before the cache is disposed of.
  • Cache owners are no longer automatically liable for restoration costs associated with adverse impacts from a geocache placement.

WSPRC did add a new clause of their own: All existing caches in state parks will be required to comply with the Directive. There are several older caches that still don't have permits or the required State Park language on their pages; their owners now must bring them into compliance or they will be removed. WSGA will be working with the parks, cache owners, and Groundspeak to take care of this in the next couple months.

So, how did this happen?

Last year, I began talking with Tina Dinzl-Pederson, Interpretive Specialist at Cama Beach State Park, about doing a possible geochallenge (with a coin) as part of WSPRC's 2013 centennial celebration. (Kudos to Rey del Roble for building a relationship with Tina and Cama Beach and then hooking us up.) Tina's grass-roots effort within the agency gained momentum, and in September 2012, we met to discuss the idea with Eric Watilo, the Northwest Regional Field Operations Manager (one of five FOMs across the state who report to WSPRC Director Don Hoch).

Before proceeding with any caching-related activity, I recommended revising the Directive, explaining the issues that cachers had with it and that it deterred them from caching in state parks. Eric was very receptive, noting that internal attitudes toward geocaching had changed: It's now a well-established activity (Director Hoch has cached with his kids), and parks have seen that it can drive visitation and revenue (see: funding issues and Discover Passes).

Eric asked me to provide him with proposed revisions, and he would present them to his peers at a statewide WSPRC meeting. I went for broke, completely revising the Directive to include all our requests from seven years ago (I had kept those notes, including those from folks like Lightning Jeff) plus more recent suggestions. Tina added a few of her own, based on her combined experience as a park ranger and cacher, and we submitted the heavily edited document to Eric for his upper-echelon parks meeting.

Eric recommended adoption to his peers, and they accepted the entire document as revised! Everything we wanted, we got! Their only change was to add the clause about bringing existing caches into compliance. (Fair enough.)

To ensure the new Geocaching Directive was in place by year-end, Eric had the document hand-delivered to Director Hoch for his signature on Dec. 12. In addition, Eric asked me and Tina to write the internal announcement, which was sent to all park staff in mid-December along with the new Directive, ensuring awareness and participation across the system (which didn't happen six years ago).

Break out the champagne!

As most of you know, WSGA was founded 10 years ago to represent geocachers at a time when WA State Parks wanted to ban caching. After three years of negotiation, the original Directive was adopted in 2006. WSGA had several issues with it, but it was better than a ban. (I attended the last negotiation meeting and compiled our proposed edits, which were declined, so I witnessed part of that painful process.)

What a fitting conclusion to our 10th anniversary year to have expanded the club's original goal! Thanks to changing times and personnel, the State Parks have come 180 degrees around in their attitude to geocaching, and I can't give enough credit to Tina and Eric for being our cheerleaders within WSPRC, as well as to Rey del Roble, PNWbrat, BrewerMD, PhilNi, the Barnabirdy(s), and other cachers who built relationships with individual state parks and showed them that geocaching is a positive recreational activity that can benefit the State Park system.

And with this new Directive comes the WA State Parks Centennial GeoTour - "100 Caches in 100 Parks Celebrating 100 Years" - which launches on June 7, 2013.

Not all those who wander are lost.
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