Sunday, July 15, 2007

The man is looking...PSA!!

A couple of days ago I was on the Columbia city site and they had a new link for geocahers & letterboxers:

I was not aware that now the city of Columbia Parks & Rec are wanting all boxes registered with the system. If the park staff finds a box and it's unregistered, it will be pulled and held for 30 days while they try to contact the placer.

There is not a charge for a permit from what I can tell, and permits are issued for a 12 month period. They have some official blurb to put in approved boxes. The official blurb works great for geocaching but not for letterboxing. I am sure if the line approved by parks and rec is included it would work fine.

So my honer y side says ... time to send the parks & rec some serious paperwork! Also, I do not know if they are aware of our little blog as a way to connect with the Mid-Mo LB community. Sorry if this is old info to anyone, but I did not see it on the blog here and the link said 'new' & I hadn't noticed it earlier.

Happy boxin' & form filling!


Fox-fyr said...

The Columbia City parks and Recreation geocaching and letterboxing policy is word for word exactly the same as the state park system policy. It looks like they took the policy and forms directly from the state and copied them (and just changed the agency name from the state to the city).

I plan to go talk with city officials and see if I can track down some more details.

On the other hand, I did some research online regarding Jefferson City parks system and U.S. army Corps of Engineers at Mark Twain lake. Neither mention anything about letterboxing but both are geocaching friendly.

I have most of Monday off so I guess it's a good time to do some investigating. I'll post a note and let you know what I find out.

The two main issues I have with the state policy are the one-year limit on the permit (after which the box must be relocated or removed) and the limits on number of boxes per person per park per acreage.

When state officials wrote the geocaching policy several years ago, they did so fairly quickly and with limited experience or information available. Letterboxing was tacked onto the policy as an afterthought.
As both hobbies have grown, I think it's worthwhile to re-examine the policy and open up a dialogue with various officials (city, state and federal)in hopes that we can create a policy that works well for everyone.

Fox-fyr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ahistory said...

Like the state policy this policy is very vague. Be very careful, your interpretation may not match theirs. Just reading it literally, my only boxes that now require permit might be denied because they list Bear Creek as a place where they do prescribed burns. Even though since its inception, I have seen no evidence of any such burning especially in the parts surrounded by houses.

Also it seems some boxes are already running afoul (no pun intended) of the policy.
Note (from the policy): Cache is not located in recreational areas such as golf courses, athletic fields, swimming areas, sensitive archaeological, historical or ecological areas. It will be interesting to see how they define these areas. For example, are "athletic fields" just the fields themselves or do they include the complex. And where does a golf course end? Is it just the fairway and the rough or is it everything that is in bounds?

I, like Fox-fyr, do not like the way this policy favors geocaching. The two activities are hardly similar as even the ethics often tend to differ. Geocachers (imho) tend to have a more "tag it and bag it" mentality which lends itself to hasty searches. Not to mention often geo clues are just coordinates and the finder must scrounge around which can increase their impact. I could go on. This highlights a problem with trying to blanket several seemingly similar activities under one over-arching policy.
A ephemeral nature of a one (or two) year limit is a minor imposition to someone who can simply type in new coordinates. When you take the time to work up an incredible clue, then you have to change it one year later. It is a shame for it to be so temporary. In a sense this acts a a deterent to me placing any letterboxes, I do not expect these to be temporary. Perhaps they will allow the person to renew indefinitely as long as they complete the paperwork every year. I did not see a two year limit as is listed on the state park application (note the limit is only on the application and NOT an actual part of the policy). So who knows.

This is one reason why I suggested trying to work with the city parks. Now the rules are being handed to us and our input is coming on the back end. I would be very supportive of a more proactive approach that might produce an informed and better-suited policy for letterboxing.

From a public safety stand point, I can see how they might want to know the location to prevent erroneous placements and to avoid over-reaction to a mis-identified box (calling the bomb squad to blow up a lock and lock isn't cheap). So I think them requiring a permit is a perfectly rational response to the day and age we now live in. I am really interested in the "limits" and if their policy allows a box to stay in place for 5 even 10 years as long as it proves to not be detrimental.

I think we have to work with them or go underground. Eventually some park person is going to figure out they can enjoy a leisurely week outside pulling "unpermitted" across the city with clues from the web.

Fox-fyr can you ask when this policy was first enacted and if there were any grandfather rules for boxes in place prior to the policy enactment?

ahistory said...

Even their definition of letterboxing is lacking. From the policy...

Letterboxing – A treasure hunt using clues and sometimes map coordinates or compass bearings. The basic idea is for someone to hide a cache, write clues to the location and enter the clues on the letterboxing web site. People can obtain these clues and attempt to locate the box. Finders should log the find in the cache’s logbook and their personal logbook.

My biggest problem is there is no mention of stamps. None what so ever. In fact, a non-letterboxer might go off searching for one and think the stamp is a trinket. Their definition itself highlights how little they understand about the sport. Clearly some education is in order.

Fox-fyr said...

I have a meeting set up with Mike Griggs of the city parks and recreation dept for Monday of next week (July 23) to discuss the policy. Ahistory brought up some good points, not all of which I had considered. If any of comments you would like me to address, please post them here or e-mail me. Do keep in mind that anyone is free to read the blog, including public agencies.

queenbusick said...

Fabulous discussion and WTG fox-fyr for getting an appointment! Do you need moral support or if you discover they would like feedback from the LB community maybe we could host a mini-meet to discuss the hobby?

I am willing to help be proactive in this and since your experience with the parks systems seems a logical choice, I am open to how you would like support.

Also, I would like them to be aware of our little blog and know if they find a box to post a comment so we can help them find the owner quickly in the event a box is pulled.

Thank you for being so proactive!

ahistory said...

I went with Fox-fyr to today's meeting which, I thought, went very well. They were unaware of the real distinctions between letterboxing and geocaching and seemed very amenable to the policy changes Fox-fyr had laid out in her revised draft. I won't spoil the rest and let Fox-fyr tell you what was said but they are very lenient and are willing to grandfather in existing boxes.
All in all Fox-fyr deserves a hearty round of thanks and in Lnd-crzr terms at least a few cases of root beer if not a keg for all her hard work. Hopefully we can be as successful in revising the state parks policy. We may need your help on that so dust off those letter-writing skills. I just wanted to say thanks again Fox-fyr and way to go.