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Placing Geocaches on Private Property

I would like to consider myself an experienced (avid) geocacher. With thousands of finds spread all across America and even some international smileys I’ve seen a thing or two. Geocaching for the uninitiated is a real world global scavenger hunt. Containers are placed for participants to find via coordinates or clues and can span a great many styles. I plan on going into various aspects of Geocaching over the course of the year, but my current focus is on being a Cache Owner (CO) and how to approach property owners about permission.

Geocaches are most notably placed in parks, along trails and in public places. Enjoying the great outdoors is a big part of the caching experience and a huge part of the appeal. When placing these types of containers you will likely be working with a state, county or city representative of the Park & Rec department.

However many of the most favorited cache in the world are place on private property. All caches require permission but how that is achieved varies wildly depending on the size, cache type and nature of the location. Determining who manages or owns the land you want to use is often a first step. Sometimes this is not clear, one way to find specifics on a parcel of land is through a GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Your local county assessor office manages the GIS website and much of the data from it is available to the public (example). All sites vary slightly but should allow you to click and drag to zoom into a specific area or to search based on an address.

Once you know who owns the property it’s time to reach out to them. This approach will vary wildly depending on the contact options available to you. The GIS website might yield contact info or you might be able to find something through an internet search. If it is a large entity like a museum or corporation your best bet is to ask to speak to someone in the public relations or marketing department. I usually begin with a phone call but if I get directed a voicemail I quickly follow that up with an email.

When reaching out it’s important to be prepared to answer questions. Most of the time you will be in touch with someone who has no idea what geocaching is or why you would want to place one on their property. Begin by giving them a high-level elevator pitch about the concept behind the hobby and how it would benefit them. Most people are open to the idea of a free way to drive people to their doorstep especially if it’s a tourist stop like a zoo or museum. Use caution to stay within the Groundspeak rules and regulations but be flexible to the needs of the organization. It is not uncommon to be handed off a few times until they find someone within their ranks that is best suited to answer your questions. Try to be patient and send follow up emails if you don’t get a response for a long period of time. Remember they are under no obligation to work with you and as my grandma used to say, “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”.

Once you’ve got the right person and they have been introduced to Geocaching explain how you imagine the cache would be laid out. Ask them for input and if possible be prepared to show pictures of examples. They may need to fall back and go through a review process with a board or upper management. This is why its essential to give them easy to understand answers with links and media so they can share it on your behalf since you won’t be there to speak directly to the project.

When you’ve got the green light setup a time to walk around the area you want to place the cache. If its something overly involved like a gadget cache be sure to bring it with you and show them how it works. Discuss how it will be mounted, if it will be kept in a safe area and what a maintenance plan would look like. It’s possible the person you speak to today wont work at the company next year when you come to replace a log. Ask that they pass your contact info on to any security and write it inside the cache in case they want to reach out to you for any reason.

When submitting the cache check that you have added the details required by your reviewer to the listing or a review note. For me this includes the name, title and email or number of the person giving permission as well as a description of the hide and what it is hidden on.

This may seem like a lot to go through for one cache placement and I won’t lie to you its sometimes taken me years to get from first approach to publication. As one of the top favorited cachers in the US I assure you geocachers love incorporating a visit to a popular place with their favorite hobby. The love shared in logs and pictures of a smiling face makes it all worth it.

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