Posted by: geonarcissa | July 22, 2009

Salmon Arm Squabble

I watch out for geocaching in the news every day, but on most days there’s not much – mostly community newspaper articles with very basic information about geocaching.

Shuswap Geo Quest coordinator, James Gjaltema, seems eager to get geocachers on board with the project. Another letter-to-the-editor on this subject has been published in the Salmon Arm Observer. Mr. Gjaltema and I have discussed the issue at length in previous journal entry comments. While I’m still not convinced that this project is in keeping with the guidelines or the spirit of the game, at this point I’m taking a “wait and see” attitude about it. Once these caches are actually out in the field, we’ll all be able to get a better sense of what they’re about.

For those of you who aren’t aware of “Ontario GPS Treasure Hunt” (OGPSTH), it was a business venture that got small businesses and chambers of commerce to pay them for cache placements that were supposed to attract visitors and generate business. People who found the cache could retrieve a code number from the cache, and then sign up for a website to receive prizes from sponsors.

I’ve heard that the fee was $250 per cache, per year (the OGPSTH website is long gone, so I have no way to confirm these figures). Each cache page was the same, save for the coordinates, and the geocaches were all poorly hidden spaghetti containers. They were all given a terrain and difficulty rating of 1, even though most of them were hidden quite far from established paths. On top of that, the coordinates were quite bad – but the fact that most of the containers were simply attached to trees with bungee cords helped mitigate the nuisance of bad coordinates. When someone posted a “Needs Maintenance” note (usually as a result of the poor coordinators and/or terrain rating), the caches were disabled for extended periods of time. The caches were also disabled when the business or organization that paid for them didn’t renew the payment.

Eventually, OGPSTH just seemed to disappear into the night. Their website domain wasn’t renewed, and the links from the cache pages started direction to an ad portal. The caches were archived soon after.

After the spectacular fail that was OGPSTH went down in flames, some of the community organizations that had been bilked of money by this scam were able to revive the caches themselves. There is a pleasant series around Calabogie, and the caches are regularly stocked with pamphlets about the area. I’ve also seen some of the OGPSTH caches along highway 7 between Ottawa and Peterborough revived, but I haven’t found any of them yet. And just a couple of weeks ago I found an old OGPSTH container in Kemptville’s Ferguson Forest that was cleaned up and replaced as a new cache for the recent CITO event.

I guess my point is that geocachers are an adaptable bunch. If the Shuswap Geo Quest caches end up being lame or against the guidelines, this will be reflected in the logs and forum discussions that follow their placement. I hope the commercial aspect of these caches is toned down or eliminated, and I do think they’re on the right track by getting local cachers to help with placement – something OGPSTH never did. Those caches were placed by summer students who had never gone geocaching before.

If I seem wary of initiatives intending to use geocaching prizes to attract tourists, it’s with good reason, but for now I’ll redirect my ire toward something other than Shuswap Geo Quest.

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