Canada

Parks Canada bans treasure hunts

The federal parks authority has temporarily banned a new high-tech adventure game over concerns that it is hurting some sensitive areas of Canada's parks system.

The federal parks authority has temporarily banned a new high-tech adventure game over concerns that it is hurting some sensitive areas of Canada's parks system.

The game is called geocaching, the hunt for hidden "caches" using a global positioning system (GPS) unit. It has become popular among outdoor enthusiasts.

"There might be an increase on off-trail travel in those locations which could displace animals and wildlife or perhaps lead to trampling and erosion, " Parks Canada spokeswoman Claire McNeil told CBC News.

The games have been banned until the federal agency devises a policy, likely next year.

The caches – a camping term for the hiding of provisions – usually contain a logbook for entries by successful locators and other items, but not food. Finders are allowed to take an item from the stash, but must replace it with something else.

While it would seem to be an easy task to find a cache if given the co-ordinates, considering that GPS devices measure in latitude and longitude down to less than 10 metres, game organizers maintain it isn't. Maps and compasses also come in handy.

Even companies are joining the craze. One automotive maker is offering a brand new 2006 4x4 vehicle as a prize in a contest across the United States.

But Canadian parks officials are concerned that gamers in this country may trample sensitive areas, such as the nesting areas of rare birds, as they zero-in on their concealed goal.

It's the parks officials who are oversensitive, Michael Newton of Corner Brook, N.L. believes.

"The people who go geocaching are environmentally conscious and don't intentionally want to harm the environment," Newton said.

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