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Oct. 28, 2009
First Texas Geocache Challenge Debuts Nov. 1
Pilot Effort Will Test Way To Get People From "Online" to "Outside"
AUSTIN, Texas — A new program at 12 Texas state parks aims to use technology to draw visitors into the outdoors. The Texas Geocache Challenge will run from Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2010, challenging state park visitors to use Global Positioning System technology to find a cache of hidden rewards in each park.
Participating central and southeast central parks are Bastrop, Buescher, Government Canyon, Guadalupe River, Huntsville, Lake Somerville-Birch Creek, Lake Somerville-Nails Creek, Lockhart, McKinney Falls, Monument Hill-Kreische Brewery, Palmetto and Washington-on-the-Brazos.
"It’s a good, healthy way to get out on the trails of state parks," said Chris Holmes, outdoor education coordinator for Texas State Parks. "We think it will be appealing to families, a really fun thing to do in a state park. The fun thing with the kids is that they literally get to find treasure, so we know they will be excited when they find the cache."
"Children today are very different from children of the past," Holmes explained. "They are much more technology-savvy, and our experience at park workshops for families has shown that the kids end up leading GPS activities. This is really using technology to be outside."
Participants can download a Texas Geocache Passport, as well as the coordinates of each of the caches, from the TPWD Web site. In each of the 12 parks a hidden box will contain small prizes, information about the park, a logbook for cachers to record their visit, and a paper punch unique to the park. Geocachers can use their GPS units to find the containers and then use the punch to mark their passports to verify their visit.
When geocachers have found all 12 boxes, they can mail the passport to TPWD, and the first 100 people to send in their passports will receive a commemorative geocoin. Other participants who finish will qualify for other prizes, such as a map of all 12 parks, Texas Geocache Challenge stickers and a certificate of completion.
The department also is making a low-tech version of the challenge available for visitors who don’t own a GPS device. Outdoor sleuths can download written clues to each of the hidden caches from the TPWD Web site. The department also is working on a Facebook page and a Twitter feed to accompany the challenge, which will allow participants to post photos and descriptions of their adventures.
"We really want people to get outside, and this is another reason for people to go out to state parks, Holmes said. "It’ll be a three-month pilot, and then we are going to evaluate it, and if it’s as successful as we expect, it could go statewide within a year."
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