Early this morning I met with Virginia State Delegate Chris Jones. Delegate Chris Jones represents the 76th Legislative District covering parts of Suffolk and Chesapeake and currently serves on three standing committees. Delegate Jones has served in the Virginia House of Delegates since 1998. The purpose of this meeting was to introduce the delegate to geocaching (if necessary), explain the rules set forth by geocaching.com and have a conversation with him concerning some of the letters and e-mails geocaching.com and some of us here locally have received from the Virginia Depart of Transportation (VDOT).
I had been in contact with his office several times over the last few months and was very anxious to meet with him. Delegate Jones was very delighted to see me and immediately asked what he could do for me. We talked for almost a half hour and I was very pleased to learn he knew about geocaching. He stated that he had family members and friends that were into the hobby and he knew they enjoyed it. I discussed not only the current "Rest Stop" issue (VDOT restricting geocaching at Virginia Rest Stops) with him but also gave him some background on my meeting with VDOT officials last year. I presented him with brochures and magazines that talked about geocaching as a "Family Fun" hobby and used geocaching as a tourist draw not only to National and local parks but also for numerous cities and areas around the state. We talked about "Rails to Trails" and their efforts to convert old rail road beds into hiking, biking and walking trails and how geocaching is also along these trails. I mentioned the You-Tube video from Nevada and how the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) is now working hand-in-hand with local geocaching groups to make geocaching safer and how their efforts are bringing older, smaller towns back to life using geocaching as a tourist attraction.
I told him about the Geocaching Hampton Roads group and all the events we have which sometimes bring in geocachers from other states. He seemed very pleased when I told him about our upcoming picnic in Newport News next weekend and was surprised at how many people had showed up in the previous years.
The main point of my discussion with him was the difference between the State of Virginia's stance on geocaching as evidenced by the brochures, magazines and web sites versus VDOT's stance as evidenced by e-mails and letters. In other words: How can the State of Virginia say on one hand "Come to Virginia and geocache - it is a family fun activity (using geocaching as a tourist draw) but on the other hand VDOT is restricting geocaching at State Rest Stops whose purpose is to get you out of the car and stretch your legs?
After I finished presenting everything I had to Delegate Jones, he leaned back in his chair and thought for a minute or two. He then proceeded to ask several good questions to clarify points I had detailed. I answered all his questions and explained a few things in more detail. After we talked for a few minutes he uttered some words that were like music to my ears. He understood my questions and saw my point. He agreed to investigate a bit further and stated he would be in contact with VDOT officials to get their side of the story. If he determines their stance is in conflict with the State's he agreed to see what he could do to bring things to an agreement. He explained this would not happen over-night but said he would get back to me with what he was able to find out and do for all of us.
I know there are far bigger problems and concerns in the State of Virginia as well as the world and told Delegate Jones that we appreciated anything he could do for us. I told him that groups such as Hampton Roads Geocaching existed all over the state and named a few for him. I told him we all would be more than willing to work with VDOT to make and keep geocaching a safe and fun hobby for all ages.
I will let all of you know when I hear back from his office.