Today geocachers from around the state gathered at Paris Mountain state Park to meet each other and discuss our sport. The hot topic is H3777, which would make geocaching illegal in all cemeteries, archeological sites, and state historic areas without express written permission. On the surface, this looks like a noble endeavor, until one takes a closer look at both the ramifications and the source of the bill.
The bill was introduced by Catherine Ceips of Beaufort in response to some complaints regarding activities in hidden African American cemeteries in that area. Apparently, some vandalism had occurred, and geocaching was a ready scapegoat, despite the lack of any evidence to support this. To make matters worse, Ceips took geocaching logs out of context, combined unrelated photographs with cache logs, and basically fabricated a portrait of geocachers as lawless individuals who tresspass, dig up treasure, and vandalize. Ceips is most famous/infamous for introducing the resolution to force the Dixie Chicks to perform for free because of their comments about George W. Bush. She has introduced 62 pieces of legislation in her tenure, none of which have passed. She is pushing this one with unrelenting zeal so that she will have at least something to show as an accomplishment before her race for re-election in 2006. The bill has passed the house, and will be up for consideration this January.
As for the ramifications of the bill, in its original form, it would be exceedingly broad. In some towns, the entire downtown area is considered a historical area. The entire town would be offlimits for geocaching. Almost all of Charleston would face this problem. Originally, the bill would have limited any use of a GPS in these areas. I would no longer be able to use a GPS to mark the location of family gravesites for my genealogical work. The bill is unnecessary. There are already anti-tresspassing laws as well as vandalism laws on the books. Why target geocaching, an activity that promotes education, geography, history, and environmental concerns?
Anyway, the South Carolina Geocacher’s Association, which has been actively opposing the bill, held its first Upstate meeting today. It was neat putting names and faces with the avatars I had seen online over the years. I met some very nice folks from the this area, including John and Mary, Fast Frank and Wanda, and Tennis Babe. The hardcore SCGA members who had come up from Columbia and Charleston were a bit more cagey. I don’t know whether it comes from fighting this bill and not knowing whom to trust, or what. I was particularly miffed at the comment that “there wasn’t much happening in the Upstate” as far as geocaching is concerned. As I heard various conspiracy theories, I almost felt like chunking the sport altogether. I guess we’ll see how this plays out, first.