In 2012, Travel Lane County partnered with Groundspeak/Geocaching.com to launch Oregon's first official geocaching tour — joining only ten official GeoTours worldwide. The GeoTour featured four "editions", or trail segments, highlighting the McKenzie River, Florence, Oakridge/Westfir and the Territorial Highway. This partnership was a multi-faced countywide promotion that spanned the years 2012 to 2015, bringing together residents and visitors, industry professionals and geocaching enthusiasts.
WHAT IS GEOCACHING?
Before Pokemon Go there was geocaching! In 2000, the U.S. government removed barriers to global positioning system signals, making it possible for civilians to track location precisely. Within 24 hours, the first GPS stash, now called a geocache, was hidden in Beavercreek, Oregon by Dave Ulmer. He posted the cache's coordinates online with the instructions to "Get some stuff, Leave some stuff!!" and within three days, several people tracked it down, did just that, and shared their experience online. The game began.
A decade later "geocaching" had a devoted following of enthusiastic geocachers. This new hobby was accessible and appealing across generations and abilities. All that was required was a GPS device or an app downloaded on your phone. The game could be played inside or outside in public spaces and it was a boon to the tourism industry as geocachers sought out new clusters of caches across the country.
TRAVEL LANE COUNTY LEVERAGES GEOCACHING
Travel Lane County worked closely with geocaching volunteers and local communities to develop the geocaching trails. Caches were strategically placed to showcase historic landmarks and lesser known natural wonders. Each edition had 36 caches with a required 24 to "complete" the tour. Trails were designed to accommodate both accessibility, seasonal access and "Leave No Trace" principals — which is a pillar value in the geocaching community.
Each edition launch drew many participants, some traveling as far as Canada to partake. Geocaching workshops were set up at the Adventure Center to help people learn about the game and how to play. The trails were further "gamified" with a passport, and players checked in at each cache to earn a special "geocoin" and a chance at a raffle drawing.
The Eugene, Cascades & Coast geocoins were distinctive geocaching trophy pieces, all crafted locally. Each individual geocoin was an official trackable with Geocaching.com. The McKenzie River and Florence Edition geocoins were individual wooden pieces that fit together like a puzzle forming the state of Oregon. The Oakridge/Westfir geocoin memorialized mountain biking on an engraved myrtlewood disc handcrafted by Amy's Garden Art in Springfield. The exquisite glass inset earned with the Territorial Highway Edition was created by Cornerstone Glass in Eugene to celebrate Oregon Wine Country. These beautiful mementos are already geocaching collectibles. Throughout the Groundspeak partnership over 3,000 geocachers participated. Travel Lane County's GeoTour program was completed in 2015, however there are still over 1,700 geocaches today within 30 miles of Eugene, Oregon. Visit Geocaching.com to get started.