DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
333 SW 1st AVE
PORTLAND, OREGON 97201-2946
CENWP-DE 27 September 2012
SUBJECT: Commander’s Policy Letter #19, Geocaching Within Portland District Boundaries
1. Purpose. Geocaching may be allowed on public lands managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in accordance with the Code of Federal Regulations Title 36 (CFR 36) and any applicable state or local rules and regulations, provided the activity is conducted in an unobtrusive manner. Geocaching can be an appropriate and compatible recreational activity on public land and water, as long as common sense guidelines are followed. Some Corps projects have used the popularity of the sport as an innovative tool to distribute information, such as water safety, in geocaches on Corps-managed lands.
2. Definition of Geocaching. Geocaching is an outdoor adventure activity for users of global positioning systems (GPS). Individuals and organizations set up geocaches (caches) all over the world and share their locations, often through the Internet. Numerous web sites are available, with one of the most popular being http://www.geocaching.com/. GPS users can then find the caches through published coordinates and site descriptions. Most commonly, a geocache is an object or container holding small objects for exchange. The finder may remove the enclosed "prize" and leave another, sign a logbook, or utilize a number of variations. Some "caches" are simply locations with unusual vegetation or unique land features the cache owner wants the cache hunter to experience (virtual caches). There is also a derivative form of the sport that searches for published coordinates of an existing historical monument, plaque, or benchmark.
While geocaching has become the standard name for the sport, other terms include Navicaching, GPS Orienteering, GPS Stash Hunt, and Benchmarking.
3. Policy. In accordance with 36 CFR 327.19 or 327.21, District Engineers, or their designees, may develop permit systems or policies to track and/or control placement of geocaches on project lands, provided this use does not conflict with project missions or security. Simplicity and ease of compliance should be emphasized. Information needed from the proposed geocache owner will include the cache coordinates (location), his/her name, and his/her address and phone number. The intent of collecting this information is to keep track of the location and number of caches on the project and to contact the owner if the cache needs to be removed. During application, the project should ask the proposed cache owner to provide a current picture form of identification with an address to confirm the applicant's identity. This information is voluntary; however, the applicant’s request can be denied for failure to comply with the information request. The project is required to store this information in a secure manner. Geocache objects or containers should be clearly identified as such when placed on public lands. Transparent containers are required, due to homeland security issues. Caches should not contain alcohol, illicit, or other inappropriate materials. It is the due diligence responsibility of the Project Operations Manager to work with the cache owners and jointly conduct periodic cache inspections to insure they are not being used for illicit and/or inappropriate purposes.
a. Individuals or groups that participate in geocaching activities on Corps property must be responsible for coordinating these activities with the Portland District, to help prevent potential conflicts with management activities (i.e., controlled burns, timber sales, planting, etc.)
4. Restrictions. It is the due diligence responsibility of the Project Operations Manager to establish designated areas where geocaching will be allowed and other areas where it will be restricted. Geocaching activities will not be allowed to occur in restricted areas where there could be conflicts with project missions, project security, or the safety of the general public.
Examples where geocaching would not be allowed include but are not limited to:
a. In designated restricted areas.
b. lf the cache, directly or indirectly, would negatively affect ecologically, environmentally, or socially sensitive areas (i.e., threatened or endangered species, critical habitats, cultural resources, tribal lands without consent, etc.).
c. In areas with potential safety risks, such as unstable banks, cliffs, or other hazards.
d. Where geocaching activities may interfere with established public uses, such as boat launching, picnicking, swimming, etc.
f. Where geocaching activities may interfere with the operation or security of the project.
5. Management Considerations. Management considerations at individual projects may require other permanent or temporary measures to ensure that geocaching activities are compatible with other project uses. For example, a project may need to prohibit geocaching during active management in an area for timber harvest, prescribed burning, hunting, or other wildlife management activities. Some projects may want to encourage and actively participate in geocaching activities to promote the Corps message in a positive way.
a. In certain instances, it may be necessary to issue a Special Event Permit in compliance with Title 36, 327.21. Conditions that may warrant the need for a Special Event Permit may include one-time activities that are publicly advertised, commercial in nature, involve large numbers of participants, provide cash prizes or other significant awards, or may potentially conflict with other uses of an area, etc.
b. If a cache must be removed from public lands for operational, safety, environmental, cultural, or other reason, a reasonable effort should be made to contact the cache owner and request removal. If the owner cannot be found, or the cache is not removed within a reasonable time, the cache may be removed and impounded as abandoned property, under 36 CFR 327.15.
6. Summary. In general, geocaching can be a fun and appropriate recreational activity at Corps projects, provided the security or missions of the project are not compromised. It provides an opportunity for positive interactions and partnerships with local groups involved in this activity.
Monitoring of web sites, communication and participation with these groups can form healthy relationships with benefits to all involved. Working with these groups can prevent problems and promote the Corps as a willing partner. Regulation should be based on common-sense needs of specific projects or areas, with a minimal permitting burden on the recreating public.
7. Point of Contact. The point of contact is Mr. Doug Dailey, CENWP-DE, (503) 808-4441.