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zuma
WGA Member



Joined: 2006-01-30
Posts: 5559
Location: Eau Claire

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:05 am Reply with quote Back to top

Some members were asking about the DOT policy on not allowing caches in rest areas. What follows are the emails that we sent last year on this subject that interested parties can use as reference.

################

Dear Mr. Edwards:
Thank you for your inquiry. WisDOT contracts with local Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRP's) to provide custodial care and maintenance services at our rest areas. The CRP's provide employment for people with disabilities who might otherwise have limited employment opportunities. WisDOT contracts with Rehabilitation for Wisconsin, Inc. (RFW) to provide oversight of the CRP's and program management services. The WisDOT Bureau of Highway Operations has oversight of the rest area program, including RFW and the CRP's. This arrangement has been in place since 1987 with positive results.


Bob Spoerl,
Roadside Facilities Engineer
WisDOT - DTSD - Bureau of Highway Operations
Madison, WI


############################


Dear Bob Spoerl:

Thank you for your quick response to my inquiry of related to WisDOT oversight of the highway rest area program, including RFW and the CRP's. I understand that this arrangement has been in place since 1987 with positive results.

My concern is related to the issue of the placement of geocaches within Wisconsinís rest areas, and I am contacting you on behalf of the Wisconsin Geocaching Association. Our membership is very concerned that geocaches are not allowed in Wisconsinís rest areas and note that geocaches are either allowed or encouraged in all other states except for Wisconsin.

Our membership notes the contrast between the Wisconsin policy for rest area for geocaches with our neighboring states. The Wisconsin policy (found at http://www.rfw.org/RAM/Images/RARules.pdf) states: "The Wisconsin Department of Transportation, for safety and operational reasons,discourages citizens from using any WisDOT site for geocaching purposes. Any "cache" found by site staff will be disposed of promptly."



This is in sharp contrast with the Minnesota DOT policy (found at http://www.dot.state.mn.us/restareas/policies/policies.html#geocaching ) that states:



ďMn/DOT wants to encourage positive use of its rest areas and feels that geocaching, if played in accordance with this policy, will not conflict with other rest area uses.Ē


In case you are not familiar with geocaching, it is an international game, played using the Global Positioning System. Participants place containers at an interesting location, and mark the latitude and longitude of the location on their GPS unit. They then post the coordinates of the location on an internet site for other participants to use to navigate to the location, using their own GPS. Typically the container will contain a logbook for players to sign, a pencil, and occasionally small trinkets for trading. Essentially, geocaching is a recreational activity that brings technology and nature together.


It is in the interest of highway safety that most states currently allow geocaches at rest areas. Rest areas are meant to give drivers a break from the road, and stopping for a geocache at a rest area is a great way to improve driver attentiveness and improve highway safety. When I travel through other states I often stop at rest area geocaches, walk around and get refreshed, and know firsthand that geocaches in rest areas greatly improve highway safety.


So the purpose of this email is to start a dialog on ways that the Wisconsin Geocaching Association can work with the Wisconsin DOT to develop a policy that will make it possible for geocaches to be placed in Wisconsinís rest areas. We will be happy to work with you in developing a policy that puts highway safety first, does not damage the rest area infrastructure, and allows those who enjoy geocaching to find geocaches in the rest areas.


Thank you for your help in this matter, and I hope that the WGA and Wis-DOT can work together effectively to improve highway safety.



Ralph Edwards

President, Wisconsin Geocaching Association
_________________


#############################

Dear Mr. Edwards:
Thank you for providing information about the Wisconsin Geocaching Association's desires for use of state safety rest areas. Your email prompted me to seek information about practices in other states with regard to approving or authorizing this activity in safety rest areas. The majority of those that responded do not authorize this type of special use.

Safety rest areas are provided for a specific purpose related to highway safety and are different than public parks. Wisconsinís rest areas are managed for the benefit of the system users. The department does not support creating any special privileges or a situation where various activities may seek to be approved or authorized at these facilities. The facilities meet a specific need, serving a narrow mission, and are not intended for use as public fora or as a destination for recreational or leisure activities.

While we appreciate that the use you are suggesting may be relatively innocuous, there are many similar activities that could likewise seek accommodation as legitimate uses of safety rest areas. The department routinely denies use of safety rest areas for private purposes. There are other more appropriate locations for activities that are not part of the public purpose for safety rest areas. As is the case with other similar activities, the geocaching activity does not depend on use of safety rest areas and there are more suitable options for the activity. Safety and security are an important concern in managing these facilities. The department does not support placement of unknown containers that could be reported as potential hazards, and is not in a position to permit or selectively allow special uses of the safety rest areas. The department does not see the geocaching activity as compatible with the function of these sites and the efficient management of the facilities.

In summary, based on feedback from other states and the review of the basis for the existing policy, the department believes the existing policy is sound and in the best interests of the overall public purpose for Wisconsinís safety rest areas.

Thank you again for your inquiry.

Bob Spoerl,
Roadside Facilities Engineer
WisDOT - DTSD - Bureau of Highway Operations
Madison, WI

_________________
Keep On Cachin In The Free World.

All posts are the opinions of the poster and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the WGA Board of Directors. 
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goirish75
WGA Member



Joined: 2010-09-04
Posts: 240
Location: Grafton, WI

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 2:13 am Reply with quote Back to top

Booooooooooooooooooooooooooo Sad

Nicely worded correspondance Ralph.

I like how Bob fails to name specific states that he says discourage geocaching at their rest areas. He just speaks in typical politically correct generalities that cant be proven or backed up. UNLIKE Ralph's fine example's that are specific, with backed up sources.

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Hey what's that? Is that glass? Ooops, yup, it was glass...booooo 
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Bassanio
WGA Member



Joined: 2009-06-08
Posts: 84
Location: New London, WI

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:56 am Reply with quote Back to top

That's too bad. Many rest areas are equivalent to mini-parks in their upkeep and they make for good cache placements.

Perhaps it's different in other areas of the state, but the rest areas around the Fox Valley area ARE very much like public parks. Restroom facilities and picnic tables...they are greenspaces designed to allow drivers a chance to relax and recharge from driving. I certainly don't agree that geocaching or any of the "other" activities detract from a rest areas purpose.

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zuma
WGA Member



Joined: 2006-01-30
Posts: 5559
Location: Eau Claire

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:09 am Reply with quote Back to top

Bassanio wrote:
That's too bad. Many rest areas are equivalent to mini-parks in their upkeep and they make for good cache placements.

Perhaps it's different in other areas of the state, but the rest areas around the Fox Valley area ARE very much like public parks. Restroom facilities and picnic tables...they are greenspaces designed to allow drivers a chance to relax and recharge from driving. I certainly don't agree that geocaching or any of the "other" activities detract from a rest areas purpose.


Just to clarify, the DOT policy applies to state managed rest areas on the interstate highway system. Highway waysides on state and county roads are generally managed by the county highway department, and geocaches are generally allowed in waysides. (I know a wayside and a rest area seem like the same thing, but to the state they are not, they are managed by different groups.)

z

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Keep On Cachin In The Free World.

All posts are the opinions of the poster and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the WGA Board of Directors. 
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Northwoods Tom
WGA Member



Joined: 2010-12-03
Posts: 640
Location: Washington Island

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 8:39 am Reply with quote Back to top

zuma wrote:
Just to clarify, the DOT policy applies to state managed rest areas on the interstate highway system. Highway waysides on state and county roads are generally managed by the county highway department, and geocaches are generally allowed in waysides.
Important point and valuable information. I think a lot of us prefer the scenic route over the 4-8 lane zip thru.
 
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Bassanio
WGA Member



Joined: 2009-06-08
Posts: 84
Location: New London, WI

PostPosted: Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:16 pm Reply with quote Back to top

zuma wrote:
Bassanio wrote:
That's too bad. Many rest areas are equivalent to mini-parks in their upkeep and they make for good cache placements.

Perhaps it's different in other areas of the state, but the rest areas around the Fox Valley area ARE very much like public parks. Restroom facilities and picnic tables...they are greenspaces designed to allow drivers a chance to relax and recharge from driving. I certainly don't agree that geocaching or any of the "other" activities detract from a rest areas purpose.


Just to clarify, the DOT policy applies to state managed rest areas on the interstate highway system. Highway waysides on state and county roads are generally managed by the county highway department, and geocaches are generally allowed in waysides. (I know a wayside and a rest area seem like the same thing, but to the state they are not, they are managed by different groups.)

z


Ahh, it looks like I was confusing the two. Thanks for the clarification, Ralph!

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BakRdz
WGA Member



Joined: 2009-08-20
Posts: 967
Location: OshVegas

PostPosted: Fri Feb 18, 2011 7:19 am Reply with quote Back to top

This is an interesting topic. If their statement is true..."Safety rest areas are provided for a specific purpose related to highway safety and are different than public parks. The facilities meet a specific need, serving a narrow mission, and are not intended for use as public fora or as a destination for recreational or leisure activities."...then why are there historical markers and other points of interest often found at rest areas? Are they not contradictory to this statement?

I think Ralph's point on geocaching at rest areas being a natural extension of the safety use is spot on. Where available, these "pull off & grab" type hides encourage drivers to take frequent driving breaks. The few available along the I heading south and north in Indiana were a blessing during my late night drive just last year. They helped me stay focused and reduce fatigue by encouraging me to stop for a break. With out them I would have likely driven straight through which would have likely decreased my driving attentiveness (which occurred plenty of times on other long trips before geocaching entered my life).
 
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musthavemuzk
WGA Friend



Joined: 2011-01-23
Posts: 16
Location: Cedar Rapids, IA

PostPosted: Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:28 pm Reply with quote Back to top

well that stinks!

Monty
 
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