Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories that will promote the activities planned to commemorate Tawawa Park, which celebrates its 70th anniversary this year with events in the park, June 30. Today: geocaching and fishing derby.
SIDNEY — Neil Allen, of Sidney, has been geocaching for 15 years.
During the 70th anniversary celebration of Tawawa Park, here, June 30, he’ll lead novice and experienced “cachers” to find “treasures” in the park.
“Geocaching is an activity that uses billion-dollar satellites to search for trinkets,” he said recently. Geocachers use tracking software in handheld devices to locate containers hidden in public places by other geocachers. Each watertight box, can or case contains a log book in which cachers record that they’ve found it.
Sometimes, the caches contain “a bunch of tacky toys or charms, golf balls, bottle caps, ‘swappables,’” Allen said. “You put one in that you bought and you take one out. Or not.” After he finds a cache, he is careful to replace it exactly as he found it. That’s because other geocachers will be looking for it, using coordinates that show up in the software on the tracker.
The tracker uses GPS satellites to determine where a searcher is relative to a cache. The containers are camouflaged, hidden “out of sight, but in sight if you look in the right direction,” Allen noted. They are always hidden on public land.
“I’ve found caches in China, Malaysia, Thailand and Canada,” Allen said. Once he finds a cache, he logs on to a website to record his find digitally. Then, whoever hid the cache gets an email alert that it’s been found by someone.
“It’s a fun game. It’s high tech hiking in the woods,” Allen said. On June 30, he’ll lead a two-hour search for several caches that others have hidden in Tawawa Park. Participants don’t have to be experienced geocachers. Novices are welcome to try their hands at the activity. And it is open to people of all ages.
“It is such an addictive sport. After you get one, you want another,” Allen said.
The Bent Finger Foundation doesn’t have a name that would make one think of fly fishing. But that’s what this Wyoming- and Ohio-based nonprofit organization will bring to the Tawawa Park anniversary celebration.
“We’re a fly fishing group,” said director Deb VanBuskirk, of Elida. The foundation was founded to honor a man who loved fishing and children. Now in its 12th year, it partners with other organizations to give kids a chance to fish.
“We have fishing camps in Ohio and in Wyoming,” VanBuskirk said. The fishing derby, June 30, will provide a free day of fishing for parents or grandparents who come out with their children, she added.
Bent Finger will provide the fishing poles and bait. The catch-and-release group will teach youngsters — and adults — who haven’t fished before how to go about it at Tawawa Lake from 10 a.m. to noon.
“They bring in the largest fish and we measure the fish,” VanBuskirk said. Experienced fishers are welcome, too. They’re the ones who know how to keep a fish on the line in the water so it stays alive until it is measured.
Even though it is each fishers largest fish that will be recorded, everyone will get a prize.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources has stocked Tawawa Lake with trout this year. But fishers may also catch bluegill, bass, brim or catfish.
“We got fingerlings three years ago from Shelby County Soil and Water. They should be large enough now to be a fun catch,” said Duane Gaier, Sidney Parks director.
There is no limit to the number of people who can participate in the derby.
“It’s a good experience for the whole family,” VanBuskirk said. “Anyone who doesn’t know about fly fishing is more than welcome to try it. We’ll teach them. It’s usually the parents who want to try it.”
During the June 30 derby, children must be accompanied by adults. VanBuskirk looks forward to getting novices involved:
“It’s very rewarding when you see a kid who’s never held a waxworm or put bait on a hook. When you catch a fish, it’s exciting. It’s the love of outdoors and how peaceful it is around the water” that keeps fishers coming back.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.