State’s Geocaching Trail catching on with visitors

A geocacher walks toward a find at the St. Jones Reserve in Dover. (Submitted photo)

A geocacher walks toward a find at the St. Jones Reserve in Dover. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — Of the 62 locations on the Delaware Geocaching Trail, nearly half are in park areas. The others are situated where tourism officials want folks to visit.

State and county leaders are committed to giving folks reason to roam the First State in search of boxes and contents that tie a worldwide network of geocachers together in a continual chase of coordinates.

The Delaware Tourism Office became involved in October 2009, and enhanced its offerings in 2011, state officials said.

With early success, sites ranging from wineries, breweries, cultural attractions and state parks were added.

“(We) continuously monitor trends and saw that geocaching was becoming a popular niche market, so we capitalized on the opportunity and created the Delaware Geocaching Trail,” said Linda Parkowski, director of the Delaware Tourism Office.

Working with Delaware Geocaching Society leader Mike Ott, the state mapped out a plan to draw visitors to all three counties to take in First State attractions.

Mr. Ott said there are approximately privately placed 2,500 geocaches overall, with items in containers sought after receiving longitude and latitude clues on geocaching.com. That’s quite a jump from the 200 caches that existed in Delaware in 2007.

Mr. Ott said he’s found more than 19,000 geocaches in approximately 35 states.

“Some people like it for getting their number count up,” he said. “I like the older style of hiking in the woods.”

Since its inception through the state’s tourism office, more than 300 travelers have completed the trail by obtaining code words in 24 boxes (eight each in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties), and more than 22,000 have registered in at least one site.

Dark blue ammo boxes with clearly marked Delaware tourism identification includes trinkets left by previous geocachers to take. During any find, private or state placed, the geocacher logs his or her identification information and leaves it in the container.

“Travelers from all over the world collect the geocoins and trinkets from the geocaching boxes; it is a great way to spend time outdoors with the whole family and teaches kids how to use maps and mapping technology,” Ms. Parkowski said.

Kent County Tourism Director Cindy Small can vouch for that, since she’s seen national and international signatures at her Dover office site, rattling off Australia, Canada and New Zealand as examples of the worldwide draw.

“The site is here to entertain geocachers,” Ms. Small said.

Easy to search

While the activity originally required a Global Positioning System device to find the spot, Mr. Ott said searches now can be conducted with Smartphones.

Some placement locations are strictly off limits, he said, including near railroad tracks, anywhere close to schools, and highways, among others.

Last weekend, a small pill bottle with a camouflage exterior was located and caused a commotion in Dover’s Schutte Park. A Delaware State Police Explosive Ordnance Detonation team responded and found it a harmless geocache.

There’s no cost to join the geocache.com network, Mr. Ott said.

The Delaware Geocache Society, started in 2003, meets several times a year for challenges, races and other events including an annual picnic.

Included in a Kent County Tourism box are visitors guides, brochures for local events and luggage tags to promote the virtue of seeking out things to do in Central Delaware.

In return, visitors have left rubber snakes, plastic alligators and a deck of playing cards identifying where it has been. According to Mr. Ott, geocachers likely are to leave something of similar or greater value when taking an item for themselves.

Once, Ms. Small said, a geocaching coin carried from Europe made its way to Dover after being dropped in boxes in California, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland. There’s no telling where it is now, she said.

Ms. Parkowski noted that many geocachers relate that they’d never have visited some First State sites if not for the trail, and others bought gift shop souvenirs during their stops.

“The Delaware Geoaching Trail attracts a diverse group of travelers to the state,” she said.

“Many of the travelers are first-time visitors to the state and by developing an activity that entices them to step out of the car and explore Delaware it creates a sense of discovery that stretches far beyond just the hunt for cache. …”

More information on the Delaware Geocaching Trail is available at the Delaware Tourism Office’s www.visitdelaware.com website, social media outlets and e-mail distributions.
Information cards also are available in Delaware visitor centers, and officials promote the trail at tourism-related trade shows in New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., officials said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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