Recently, JadeFalcon and I passed up on a cache that we had serious qualms about trying to find. The cache was within 10 – 20 feet of an elementary school classroom window. The FTF’er already had a run in with school officials since the school is actively being used. As a teacher and geocacher, I personally contacted the owner with the suggestion that they archive it before it causes any serious problems (aka: police). It has since been archived by the owner. So it got me thinking. What are some places to avoid hiding caches at?
Right now, the Groundspeak server is down due to a fire in a nearby building that killed the power, so I can access the site to give you some of the stuff they mentioned. But let’s go off of some of my own experiences and what I can remember of the site’s list.
I’ve already stated schools. I honestly don’t care if the school gives permission or not. Geocaches should not be next to schools. If there is immediate line of site between ANY window of the school and where the cache is hidden, such that somebody at that window can see you wandering around trying to find it…it’s a bad spot. Also don’t forgot about where the person will have to park. If you have to park in the school’s lot and walk past the school building, you are likely to get noticed. School staff members are especially cautious of any strange person rooting around the school. Between possible terrorists, school shootings, child predators, and pedophiles, school officials try their best to try and provide a safe location for kids.
No, I can’t raise my hand and say I’ve never hidden near a school. I hid one in a park next to a school before. But, it was about .16 miles away and had a heavy tree line and trails between the school and where the hide is. Plus, parking is even further from the school. So no chance of getting near the school or being seen from the school.
But what if the school gives permission? Doesn’t matter. And I have proof that it doesn’t matter. Check out THIS ARTICLE about a school in Boulder, CO that was evacuated as a result of geocachers going after a cache that had been in place FOR TWO YEARS! The staff member got permission from the school and a grant was even written to help cover some various costs related to the project. Yet, one teacher who didn’t know about it called police after some suspicious people were digging around the sign at the front of the school. Proof that permission from the school is not enough to guarentee safety. Throw in that many geocachers get nervous going after these kinds of hides, and it’s just not a good idea.
Another one to avoid is placing caches under heavily used bridges/overpasses. We see lots of caches that are placed near bridges, and for those that see light to very light traffic, it may not make a difference. But place one in a spot that receives constant, heavy traffic, and it only takes one person driving by to wonder why somebody is rooting around that spot and boom…911 call and bomb squad is called in for that “Suspicious package”. And don’t even consider overpasses. Just about every overpass will have two problems: safety while trying to get to the cache and traffic. Just avoid them all together.
Banks. Come on people. You have a spot that historically gets targeted for theft and attack, and you want to put a camoed container in the bushes next to it? You’ve probably read the articles about geocaching bomb scares. Would it surprise you to learn that some of them are the result of people placing ammo cans in bushes next to banks? About the only hides I’ve ever seen near banks that would be less likely to cause the bomb squad to be called in (notice I said less likely and not that there is no chance) are nano’s and bison tubes. Anything larger than a micro is likely to catch someone’s attention. This goes for the whole bridges and overpasses one too.
Police Stations and Fire Stations. Okay. I’ve seen these before. In some of the cases, it’s not next to the station but in the nearby park. Like the school issue, consider line of site and parking when considering this. And I HIGHLY recommend that you notify the station to let them know EXACTLY what is going on. And as in the other cases, ammo can’s aren’t the best thing to use for this. Check out the Station series in Lincoln, NE for an example of someone who did a nice series about the local Fire Stations, with permission from the stations.
Railroads. Groundspeak actually has a guideline for this one, yet I see it get ignored every once in a while. Geocachers are supposed to be a minimum of 150 from active railroad tracks. This should be an obvious one. Hiding one on the nearby sign, electrical equipment, or even on the tracks itself is extremely dangerous for the person searching for the cache. Plus, hiding it on the tracks can be dangerous for trains as well. The closest I’ve seen was under 50 feet. I’m not sure how that slipped through, but guess what? A train went by as we looked for it. Yep, dangerous spot.
Groundspeak has a guideline against placement of geocaches in National Parks. It’s forbidden, though you might find virtuals or earthcaches in parks. If you are wondering why, it’s because those two cache types forbid placement of an actual geocache. Instead, you go to a site and learn something. Occasionally, you might find a park that will have physical geocaches. On every occasion I’ve heard of, it’s the park rangers themselves who placed it and it’s in a high traffic area so the ecological risks are greatly reduced.
That leads into ecological areas. Every state has some form of department of conservation. Those departments manage the Wildlife Management Areas, Wildlife Refuges, and many of the state’s State Parks. Many states have established guidelines for cache placement. Either they ban it, or they allow it with special use permits (which have to be approved by the department). They do this because many of these areas are more prone to suffer damage by humans. The laws are put in place to reduce our impact. If you find an area that you are interested in, contact the land manager to find out what steps you need to do. You might even look into whether there are any spots in the park where the geology might make an interesting Earthcache. They will often jump on the opportunity since it doesn’t require a cache container and helps with education.
There are lot of other locations that should be avoided/carefully considered too. Here is a list of a few others that you should be careful about placing caches around:
Do you have any others I left out? Post a comment and explain why cachers should be careful about placing caches there, or avoid it altogether. In my next post, we’ll look out how the type of container used can make a big difference, especially in some of the locations listed above.
And with regards to my streak:
Total days in a row cached: 42 days
Total caches found during streak: 249 caches
P.S.: Thanks to Flo. and Lookout Lisa (owner of CACHE ADVANCE) for a few other suggestions on places to avoid.