The Board of Directors has unanimously agreed upon and is currently working on a set of actions to address the issue of fees being charged for permits for geocaches placed in the Ouachita National Forest. The Board has also agreed that its focus will be on the elimination of the fees, but not the permits. This would make the Ouachita NF policy consistent with that implemented in 2006 by the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest. Input from the ArkGeo members was requested before the list of actions was finalized for general membership release. We wish to thank those who contacted us to provide specific, constructive suggestions and helped us on this.
The specific actions to be taken are as follows:
1) Start a petition of geocachers in support of eliminating the fee.
2) Contact each one of the National Forest offices in Region 8 and survey their requirements for geocache placement.
3) Set up a meeting with an official of the Ouachita NF to present the results and propose the elimination of the fee. This meeting should be limited to three representatives from ArkGeo (including no more than 2 Board members). Here are the things we would need to have ready:
a. Findings from our survey of the Region 8 offices.
b. Petition results
c. A list of geocaches currently hidden in national forests of Arkansas.
d. A copy of the Ozark NF policy
A draft petition has been prepared, but formal requirements for the petition are being researched by a Board member to ensure that the petition is not rejected on a technicality. It is expected, however, that the petition will be ready for members to sign at the annual social event at Lake Catherine State Park on May 31.
Emails have been sent from a Board member to the supervisors in each of the Region 8 national forest headquarters soliciting information regarding their official geocaching policies and associated fees, if any. No responses have been received yet.
Chuck Walla, the Geocaching.com geocache reviewer for Arkansas, has also notified us that a topic has been posted on the reviewers-only forum at GC.com about national forest policies with regard to permits (particularly fees). The Board is waiting on a response from Chuck Walla on the final results of that forum inquiry. However, the initial results provided about a week ago identified no other national forests that charged a fee for a geocache permit.
A list of geocaches in the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests still needs to be prepared. This will be delegated to a non-Board member. Volunteers are needed.
The meeting with the Ouachita NF remains to be scheduled. The group of ArkGeo representatives to attend the meeting will be selected by the Board from recommendations by the members of ArkGeo. Recommendations should be provided by email or private message to one of the Board members no later than May 30. Once the ArkGeo representatives are selected, they will be tasked with scheduling and preparing for the meeting with the Ouachita NF.
The Board recognizes that additional actions may be warranted, either before or after the meeting with the Ouachita NF official. If any ArkGeo member has a recommendation on some other action that should be considered by the Board, please post a note to this thread or send one of the Board members an email with your recommendation.
The Board asks that this thread be reserved for specific comments about the plan from members and the status of actions taken from the Board. General discussions about the Ouachita policy and the expression of opinions about the Board’s actions should be posted in the existing thread under the “Arkansas Geocaching” forum section.
As always, the Board appreciates any volunteers to help with carrying out this plan.