CHIPLEY — Described as “hide and seek for adults,” geocaching might be an activity that could bring more visitors to Washington County.
Tourism Development Council member Scott Sweeney introduced the sport of geocaching to the rest of the TDC members during the council’s March 25 meeting at the Washington County Chamber of Commerce in Chipley.
“I was looking for ways to bring people into the area that don’t cost an arm and a leg to do,” Sweeney said. As the Park Manager of Falling Waters State Park, Sweeney is familiar with geocaching — the state park already has three geocaching sites located within its boundaries.
Sweeney said last week there was a family from Indiana geocaching at Falling Waters State Park. In fact, the waterfall at the park is featured on the website, earthcache.org, Sweeney added.
Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices, according to the website, geocaching.com. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find a hidden container called a “geocache” at that location.
Once the geocache is found, the seeker signs a logbook showing that the site was located. The containers also sometimes contain prizes, but geocachers are asked to replace what they take with a similarly suitable prize.
The geocaching website suggests travel and tourism professionals create a GeoTour of their region.
“It's easy to put your destination on the map for millions to discover,” according to geocaching.com. “You already have the raw materials. You know the friendly neighbors, the best places to eat, and that one special spot that people should never miss on their visit. The question is: how do you entice the travelers and tourists of the world to discover your destination?”
Sweeney said geocaches can be located anywhere — places of historical interest, places of beauty, or even at events, such as the Watermelon Festival.
“Washington County is a great place to geocache,” Sweeney said. He said that if there were 100 geocache sites in the county, then the TDC could award something like a lapel pin to seekers who find a certain percentage of the sites. “We can get pins for just pennies, and we can ask for $2 or $3 for them in return.”
People are already geocaching in Washington County, but if the TDC were to develop a GeoTour, that could drive searchers to specific places, such as Hard Labor Creek or the Washington County Historical Museum.
“We could have a list of sites, then have our booth at the Watermelon Festival be the last stop,” Council member Ted Everett said.
“A GeoTour lets our community of millions know you're open for business with a story to tell, interesting locations, and family-friendly activities,” according to the geocaching website. “These unique tours bring locations to life through a series of engaging geocaches placed within a specific area or along a route.”
The geocaching community is five million strong and growing, according to geocaching.com. “Armed with smartphones or dedicated GPS devices, geocachers are always searching for their next ‘find.’"
The impact of GeoTour is completely measureable, according to the website. Monitoring allows for tracking the number of Passports and Geocoins deployed and the number of geocaching "logs" entered by visitors on Geocaching.com.
“Why don’t you spearhead this?” Everett asked Sweeney. “Let’s try and do something with the Watermelon Festival.”
“I think this can really have a positive impact,” Sweeney said. “There are so many neat things to do in Washington County, people are going to say, ‘why didn’t we come here sooner?’”