View Full Version : Ouachita National Forest ROW Caches

08-24-2009, 07:44 PM
While consulting with the Ouachita National Forest (ONF) on whether or not a newly submitted geocache along Highway 7 would require a permit, I learned that I misunderstood some information provided by the ONF many months ago regarding geocaches placed within the right of way (ROW) of a state or county road within the National Forest. My understanding was that a geocache placed within the ROW did not require a permit from the ONF and therefore (my assumption), the cache location did not need to be reviewed by the ONF. However, today I received an email from an official at the ONF which stated the following:
I think there is still some confusion about geocache permits on National Forest within State (and county) rights-of-ways. The State has an easement for the road and its management. All other uses are still managed by the Forest Service (FS). So I don't agree with the argument that no FS review is necessary simply because it's within the State ROW. Instead, both the FS and the State should review the location. The State in order to be sure that the geocache location does not interfere with the State's management (eg a geocache in a interstate median could create a safety hazard with people trying to cross the freeway); the FS for compliance with FS policy on geocaches.
Based upon this, I am immediately requiring any geocache placed in a ROW within the ONF to be reviewed by the local ONF district office for compliance with the Forest Service's geocaching policy, before I will publish the geocache listing.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may create (as of this evening, I have MANY geocaches in my review queue which are in this situation), but I am obligated by Geocaching.com to enforce the requirements of any land managers pertaining to geocache placement.

Chuck Walla
Geocaching.com Volunteer Cache Reviewer

08-25-2009, 07:03 PM
Hey Chuck thanks for working to get everything correct. I have lightened your load though by archiving all my pending caches in the ROW. I no longer find any joy in attempting to hide a cache in an area that is so hostile to geocaching. I started to archive all my ONF caches when they started this whole permit thing but I was convinced not to. I think now I will. I will find somewhere that is a little easier to hide a cache before I attempt it again.

08-25-2009, 10:45 PM
I would like to add, vent or just add a little fuel to the fire and let you know you are not alone. It has taken me 4 months and several visits to my local Ozark NF office to get my caches approved 8O
There was a changing of the Superintendent (Top Local Dog), then the paperwork got lost (OK, I lost mine too :oops: ) , then I had to submit a TOPO map of the cache locations and then make a couple of trips just to bug them. Finally I got my paperwork and you will be glad to know that Chuck Walla approved them on the spot (that was the only part of this whole ordeal that went right). 8)

The permit system is not working so good for any of us, but they have some really good spots and they sure do need caches at them. Maybe a few good logs will make up for all the bad stuff that goes with it.
It is FREE (except for the gas, printer ink and aggravation it could be worse and paying $57.00 Each). :wink:

08-25-2009, 10:49 PM

08-26-2009, 03:19 PM
I hate to say it, but I may have alerted him to these in a round about way. anyway, please post up if you are having trouble with your Ouachita NF cahces, I have gotten 3 approved that were not that hard, but they wanted alot of info about the area. Elaine Sharp is the Contact for the Ouachita NF for geocaching placements, she then deals them out to the seperate districts. But she never actually goes to the location and looks at it to make an assessment. She relies pretty heavily on field rangers and topo's.

For example, one of my upcoming caches is very close to a river and the other is close to a "drainage system". These were all areas of concern for her. She asked if there would be tons of traffic and such and I told her "no, I think you'll get 10-20 finds in the first month, after that it will be one find here and a find there." I believe once I get these published and show how many people actually find them, she will be confused again. She was worried about erosion, geo-trails forming, sediment, etc, and that is just not the case with a majority of the NF caches.

Please PM me if your having trouble in the Ouachita area as I have some contacts up there (I did do a Cache in Trash out event and they all know me at least).

I think there is WAYYYY too much RED tape and I stressed this to the Ouachita NF contact, but she said there is nothing she can do until she learns a little more about this. I also think someone should take Elaine and a few others out for a geocaching trip before there are no caches left in their NF and show them what it is. I saw some new micro's placed in the last few months I hoped to find, but with the ROW problem I don't know. I mean, it's a Nano or film canister not an ammo can. Surly we can convince the NF to "interpret" the rules a tad differently for very small items.

Hey, at lest they stopped wanting to charge a fee :) If i'm ever down that way I'm going to swing by and have a chat with them just to let them meet me and all. She said I was one of the first to try the new system and to just give it some time. I told her we'll see and that I have no problem giving her the requested info, I just wish the process was a little faster, like a week turnaround time vs 3-6 weeks for my caches. They are so worried about the traffic and extra workload for t heir rangers, they are forgetting why the forest is there to begin with.

I understand the need to protect sensitive areas, but they are micromanaging it so bad it is almost impossible. I basically had to break it down to a way she can understand it when I sent my e-mails. I explained grade, drainage, roads/trails that are existing, NF road numbers, distance from stuff, etc to give her a great picture of the area. Especially after I told her one of the one's she didn't like was a dump site and that geocachers would pick up trash as they go in and out and could only be good for the area she decided to let that one pass.

I also don't think they know we only have one reviewer for our state and that not just anyone can place a cache in a interstate median. I hope Chuck can educate them on how the process works and that a cache like that would not pass geocaching policy, but a culvert on hwy 7 would.

Again, please post what you guys are going through and perhaps I can help a little.


08-26-2009, 06:40 PM
Well from what I have seen of the policy the fee is still on the table. If you want to leave a cache in the same place, that is if they allow it, then you will most likely have to pay a fee. I talked to the lady at the Jessieville office just a few weeks ago about getting my caches permitted and that is what she told me. They really need to take a look at the State Parks program and model theirs after that. As far as I am concerned, geocaching is dead up here. I won't waste my time hiding another in this part of the world.

08-27-2009, 02:17 PM
I believe you talked to Robin, she was hard on me as well. But I told her that at the end of the year, I would send her a picture of the area and a total of finds for the total year, and max by month and prove that the traffic is less than people stopping on the side of the road to pee. I really do think they think this is going to be bringing in tons of people like what the rainbow people/tribe did and mess lots of land up or something.

I really do think our association's "relations committee" should take care of these types of issues and report their findings here and in the quarterly meetings.

From my dealings with them the process is like this:
1) fill out form (i did mine in word and e-mailed the word file)
I included topo pics in my form (just a cut and paste in my word file
2) e-mail that file to Elaine Sharp, she will send it to whichever office is responsible for it
3) Wait for reply from that areas office lady (could be Robin) and provide any extra info and she should approve them.

Please someone else who has done it let me know if I left anything out. Your making me want to place another geocache to see if the process still works. I know very few people have placed new caches out in the Ouachita area.

I do have to e-mail Elaine, Mary, and Robin to "extend" my date as my caches have not been published yet, but they have already took 3 months of my 12months "permit" time and I'll ask about issues and such at that time and let you know how the process went again.

What would happen if we put together a information and training session from our club leaders to every member of the NFS for the Ouachita area? We could even video tape it and put it on youtube or something so they can pass it around to other rangers/personnel that couldn't' make it. [/list]

08-28-2009, 11:16 AM
Hi Guys... I just met with Liz Gross with the National Forest Service office in Mt. Ida and showed her the caches that we have out presently and are wanting to get approved. She was very nice and offered some good advice. I don't think there will be any problems with these caches, but they are all ROW caches. There will probably be more paperwork if they were not ROW, but I still think we can get most caches up and going if we are able to bend in the wind a little bit.

I will try to get on here and update when I hear back from her on these caches. We really don't have a choice in trying to work with these folks if we want to bring our fellow caches out in our neck of the woods. I am just praying that it will work out.


08-28-2009, 01:21 PM
I talked to some administration at Caddo Hills and they really, really want to see more caches in the area. He told me they are attempting to start a geocaching program at the school. I believe he said something about sending a teacher or two to geocaching training for the classroom (science, geography, social studies).

That being said, I would love to see it become much easier in the area. I know I have a few caches out on the ROW in the area and most cachers really seem to like them (probably because they are there, not so much because of quality). I can't see them causing erosion problem and I tried to place them in areas that were safe to park nearby.

I was AMAZED when I started caching from my parents' house in the ONF and there were so few in the area. I hope we can change that.

08-31-2009, 08:27 AM
Okay, Elaine is getting me contact information for each district so you can contact that district's "approver" instead of her on everything. Just looking at the gc.com map of geocaches, it looks like Ouachita has more geocaches than Ozark does. I know it is bigger and has a lake around it as well as a decent sized town, but I wonder what the exact numbers are.

I wrote some more information out to her and tried to relieve some of her assumptions that caches are going to be abondoned by letting her know that we "have cachers that travel hundreds of miles to be "first to find" on a new cache, and those same cachers will travel that same distance to remove an "abandoned" cache so we can keep the good faith in your managed lands and continue to cache there". I told her I would love for a few people from Arkgeo meet with Elaine to take her geocaching and explain to her how the approval process works for our state. Perhaps even place a cache and then go through the approval process with her to see how it works and does not work.

I'll keep you posted on my replies.