Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bureau 'caches in" to lure tourist

Geocachers follow Civil War trail, visit 3 local historic sites  
By Johnny Kampis, The Decatur Daily
A new program is spurring treasure hunters to descend on some of the area’s Civil War-era sites, and local officials hope they learn a bit of the region’s history while they are there.
The Decatur-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau recently launched the Appalachia Civil War: The Home Front in Alabama Passport, which tasks geocachers with visiting 20 historic state sites, including three in Decatur.
Tami Reist, president of the bureau, said the challenge was born from a project last year for the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War. Signature sites were featured on a map inserted into American Heritage magazine.
“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if we geocached this trail?’ ” she said.
Geocachers use GPS devices to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using map coordinates.
The containers on the trail contain stamps that participants use to mark their passports, verifying they’ve traveled to the locations.
Each box also contains a quick response code, which, when scanned by a smartphone, will provide more information about the site.
“It encourages them to go in and explore and learn more about history,” Reist said.
Local geocacher Owen Chapman helped set up the challenge by placing containers at most of the locations.
Chapman said he had to improvise in some spots, because geocaching rules prevent new caches from being placed within 500 feet of existing containers.
The caches for Old State Bank and Blue & Gray Museum of North Alabama, both in Decatur, were put in alternate locations in the city because the sites are too close to a cache in Lafayette Street Cemetery.
Geocachers must visit these sites to gather clues to the cache locations. For example, a participant must count the columns of Old State Bank to help determine one of the coordinates.
Chapman said geocachers are enjoying the new challenge. A couple have already completed the passport and brought the document to the visitors bureau, where they received a Civil War commemorative coin for their efforts.
“Anytime you get new caches, you get a rush to them,” Chapman said. “People like being introduced to something new. I’ve been all over North Alabama to places I never would have been if I wasn’t geocaching.”
You can pick up your passport at the visitors bureau, 719 Sixth Ave. SE, or download a copy at

Area spots on the Civil War geocaching passport

  • Pond Springs, Courtland
  • Alabama Veterans Museum, Athens
  • Blue & Gray Museum of North Alabama, Decatur
  • Old State Bank, Decatur
  • Bennett-McEntire House (also known as Rhea-McEntire House), Decatur
  • Alabama Veterans Museum, Huntsville
  • Huntsville Depot, Huntsville
  • EarlyWorks History Complex (formerly Alabama Constitution Village), Huntsville

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