WHY ORIENTEERING SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN YOUR PARK'S LISTED ACTIVITIES
Technology is great, isn’t it? We are an addicted society, and we want our kids to grow up learning the same things we were taught and not have to rely on instant answers on our pocket devices. Yet, adults are doing the same thing and kids are learning from us. Right now, most TN residents rely on GPS devices for finding our way. Sometimes even in a confined space like a park. Yet, a park is the perfect learning playground. We can not only learn about our environment around us which includes exercising your brain and body.
One of the most popular features that many smartphone users rely on is a global positioning system (GPS) app. Using their preferred GPS app, smartphone users can find detailed driving/walking/biking/public transit directions, avoid traffic jams, find faster routes and so much more. What would happen if we suddenly needed to use a map but had never seen one before? Most of us have used paper maps before but quite a few younger ones have only navigated through apps. Those older folks that have seen them are forgetting how to read them. Can you imagine forgetting basic math or reading? We are constantly practicing those things but not map reading. Since so many people have become reliant on technology to plot their various courses, they’re unfamiliar with tried-and-true navigation tools such as maps and compasses.
The good news is that some folks realize their lack of navigational skills and are doing something about it.
Never heard of orienteering. That’s ok! Keep reading and you’ll learn all about this fun and helpful recreational activity.
What is Orienteering
Some refer to orienteering as an art. Others consider it a sport. What we can tell you is that it’s a fun and extremely useful activity that improves your navigational skills.
Orienteering involves the use of a custom-made detailed map to navigate an unfamiliar course or piece of terrain safely and successfully. Using the map, participants must make their way through the course visiting each assigned checkpoint as they go until they reach the finish line. Learning how to use a compass is just a small part of what can be learned with expert navigation techniques.
Permanent Courses or Live Meets
While "live" meets are events run by local Orienteering Clubs, many parks are too far away from local club access or the club activity is too far away for want to be participants. Some people would rather learn and practice Orienteering skills while on their own as being with a group can be intimidating for some people. "Permanent Orienteering courses" feature a detailed custom map along with markers that are placed permanently out in the park. Markers are usually set in the ground with 4x4 wood posts or with fiberglass trail markers. A map with the course pre-drawn on the map is provided to participants.
The current problems with Permanent courses
While "live" meets are events run by local Orienteering Clubs, many parks are too far away from local club access or the club activity is too far away for want to be participants. Some people would rather learn and practice Orienteering skills while on their own as being with a group can be intimidating for some people. "Permanent Orienteering courses" are a really good solution for some people. Permanent courses feature a detailed custom maps and markers that are placed out in the park. Markers are usually set in the ground with 4x4 wood posts in concrete or with fiberglass trail markers. A map with the course pre-drawn on the map is provided to participants. Markers typically have a small Orienteering Flag symbol and a 2 letter or number code to verify the correct location. Markers become damaged over time either through tree fall or possible vandalism. The map becomes dated and this renders the permanent course obsolete or in poor shape in a very short time. Normally, Orienteering clubs do their best to maintain the courses and maps but clubs don't have enough resources to do this on a regular basis. Orienteering clubs relies on volunteers and funds from local meets to survive.
In addition to the lack of attention, the courses are static. That is, once someone does it once, they don't come back as they have done it already.
A much better solution
Instead of permanent control markers, I have come up with a way to solve the problems by making control points that are portable. The markers not only have letter codes but also QR Codes. The QR codes allow those that want to compare their time with others on the course. They would just need to sign up and download or pick up the map at the Park office. The participants would have to use a phone (not for navigating), to scan the code.
Map update or creation: A detailed orienteering map would be created using drone footage and lidar data along with field work. This is best done in the winter months but it depends on your park.
Course choices: Although the courses are pay per use, not all of them are. There will always be a free course that participants can go on without signing up. That map can be downloaded or picked up at the park office. There would be at least 2 other courses made with. The variety will a good fit for Scouts, Advanced competitors, JROTC Cadets and more. The courses would change up on occasion just so your park sees repeat visitors. I will maintain all courses and the maps along with the website to keep track of results