County tourism, chamber to host geocaching meeting

Shenandoah County Tourism and the county Chamber of Commerce are taking steps to organize a geocaching tour for the businesses and towns.

The county will host a kickoff meeting on Sept. 16 at the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce for local businesses and residents to learn about geocaching as well as how to set up a geocache site.

Marketing and Tourism Director Jenna French said, “Really, one of the big takeaways from this is how to promote the geocaching to help increase tourism in the county and make us more of a destination people want to come to.”

French is working to organize this countywide geocaching tour – or Geo-Tour – with the county chamber as well as Edinburg resident and chamber member Jeanne Russell.

Russell, who is also the program coordinator for the Shenandoah Community Foundation, said she approached French recently about the idea of organizing a Geo-Tour for Shenandoah County.

“I think a lot of it is just getting people to understand what it is, getting the businesses to understand how it can really help them,” Russell said.

“I think it would be a helpful thing,” she said. “It would be something that could get community members and business owners … all behind something that’s fun.”

Geocaching is a growing outdoor game in which participants use GPS-enabled smartphones to track and locate objects – which can include anything, even a postcard – and then log their “finds” on Geocaching.com or on the Geocaching smartphone application.

According to Geocaching.com, there are almost 270 geocaching sites registered by various groups and residents within a 20-mile radius of Strasburg.

The caches include multiple sites on Buzzard Rock Trail near Front Royal, Civil War Trail and Shenandoah River Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. State Park in Bentonville and Civil War Sesquicentennial caches through the Frederick-Winchester County Visitor Center.

“There’s just a million different things people do with geocaching,” Russell said.

However, Russell noted Monday that there are not a lot of geocaches specifically focused within the towns of Shenandoah County.

French said that she has seen a fair amount of interest first-hand for geocaching, specifically as executive director of the county chamber from 2010 to 2013. In that time, French said that she fielded quite a few inquiries about geocaching.

“There were a number of people that would stop in my office, looking for a geocache,” she said. “These were people from out of the area, not necessarily local.”

During French’s stint with the chamber, this specific geocache was located at the Woodstock Historic Courthouse on Main Street.

French said, “The majority of the people that come in looking for the geocache are visitors traveling through the area. It’s just a hobby of theirs. They like to go and check off as many of them around the country as they can.”

Russell, who has been geocaching for three years, created her own account this past year. She said that it has only amplified her initial interest in the activity.

“It’s kind of addictive,” she said. “Wherever you go, if you have a little bit of time or you’re waiting in line somewhere, you just see what’s close.”

On top of being a driver for increased tourism, French indicated that a geocaching tour could bolster locations for more business.

French said, “(Geocaching) is a great way to get somebody to come to your place of business in the first place, and it kind of puts you on the map to somebody who may not otherwise be seeking you out.”

“We’re just hoping that businesses and individuals will kind of take into their own hands to decide if it’s something that’s right for them,” she said.

The first Geocaching Tour meeting for Shenandoah County will be held at 6 p.m. Sept. 16 at the Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce in Woodstock.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com