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GeoEvent in Kittanning park strives to spark geocaching interest

Louis B. Ruediger
Armstrong County Tourist Bureau Director Kevin Andrews with some of the things used by geocachers to find hidden treasures. The bureau is hosting a GeoEvent to teach people how to geocache Friday in Kittanning's Riverfront Park. Tuesday May 6, 2014.

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Learn the ins and outs of geocaching with veterans who have been doing it for years at the Tourist Bureau's GeoEvent in Riverside Park on Friday. Participants should meet at the Murtha Amphitheater in the park at 6:45 p.m.

Thursday, May 8, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Armstrong County for years has attracted people from out of town who embark on high-tech treasure hunts known as geocaching. The Armstrong County Tourist Bureau on Friday will focus on getting locals interested in doing the same.

The tourist bureau will host the GeoEvent — a hands-on introduction to geocaching — at 7 p.m. in Kittanning's Riverfront Park. Members of the Armstrong County Geocachers will be there to explain the ins and outs of the activity and assist people in finding geocache treasures hidden in the park.

“The big thing on Friday will be the hands-on demonstration to show them how it works,” said Geocachers member Bob Ashley, 55, of Rayburn.

Guided by GPS coordinates found online, geocachers search for containers hidden in out-of-the-way locations, or sometimes even in plain sight disguised as something else. They may take or leave a token in the geocache containers at each site, or leave their name in a written note. The “treasure” is mostly in just being able to find the container.

When Ashley began geocaching seven years ago, he said there were about 100 sites within a 10-mile radius of Kittanning. Now, a search for sites within 10 miles of the 16201 zip code brings up more than 1,000 results, he said. He attributes the growth to several factors.

“It takes you places you've never been before, even around Kittanning,” he said. “And it's great for the kids. It keeps their interest and gets them outdoors.”

While the GeoEvent geocaches placed in the park are only temporary, Tourist Bureau Director Kevin Andrews hopes the introduction to the activity will spark a lasting interest for those who participate.

Several years ago, the tourist bureau and Armstrong Rails to Trails Association teamed up to create a geocache trail. Its 25 sites now span from one end of the county to the other, and treasure hunters who find 20 of them receive a collector's coin.

“We have every cache in a historic place. All are family friendly and easy to find,” Andrews said. “It gives you a chance to learn about the county and its history and see the beauty of Armstrong County.”

Recently, one woman came in from out of town and rented out a hotel room for a week so that she could search for all of the trail's geocaches, according to Andrews.

While the attraction may bring in visitors, it's not likely that county residents even realize what brought them to the area.

“There are people out there looking for geocaches all around them, and people don't even know what they're doing,” he said.

To participate in the GeoEvent, treasure hunters should meet at the Murtha Amphitheater in Riverview Park by 6:45 p.m.

The tourist bureau is hosting the GeoEvent in celebration of National Travel and Tourism week that started Saturday. The bureau will also hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its 125 Water Street headquarters on the day of the GeoEvent.

Andrews and the tourist bureau hope that Friday's introduction will kick off an ongoing interest in geocaching, whether on their own or at the GeoEvent group's annual expedition June 21 at Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center.

“The ultimate goal is if we get people interested, we'll get them out to the geocaches,” he said.

Julie E. Martin is a freelance reporter for Trib Total Media.

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