Geocachers clean up Gourdneck Prairie Cemetery

The clean-up crew, from left, includes Martin Schultz, Kelly Schultz, Russ Hankey, Todd Shoemaker, Jennifer Lord, Michelle Heffernan, Gary Broekhuizen, Simon Brewer, Ed Halcomb, Sara Landon, Peter Hoyt, and Charlie, the four-legged member.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Local members of Michigan Geocaching Organization (MiGO), a statewide geocaching group, organized a clean-up of the Gourdneck Prairie Cemetery and adjacent woods on Portage Road. Russ Hankey, who gained approval through Schoolcraft Township Clerk Virginia Mongreig and coordinated the effort, explains MiGO sponsored the event called CITO, which stands for “Cache in, Trash out.”

Geocaching is a popular activity for enthusiasts of all ages and abilities, involving technology (handheld GPS units) and time out-of-doors. According to its website, http://www.mi-geocaching.org, MiGO’s goal is “to promote the sport of geocaching, an appreciation of the outdoors, and good environmental stewardship, through cooperative efforts with Michigan geocachers and land management officials.” Currently there are over 1,300 members statewide, many local chapters, and year-round activities.

Individuals travel to outdoor parks and other approved areas, following clues to find a “cache.” The cache is a container, which varies in size, but most importantly includes a log for the geocacher to sign. Hankey has been involved for 13 years, and explains that besides the actual hunting, he enjoys the people he meets at various events. He also appreciates the history he often discovers while traveling to many unique places around the country, and the service aspect of helping to care for and preserve the natural world.

In mid-May, the group was shocked by the amount of household waste the members discovered scattered around the historic cemetery, schoolhouse, and wooded area.

Hankey asked approval from the township and in June, 11 members of Geocachers of Southwest Michigan removed 10 garbage bags full of trash and debris, and hauled away several larger discarded items. The group treated the cemetery with respect and limited the number of vehicles entering the property. Hankey said members enjoyed the day and appreciated the opportunity to “do something nice for the community.”

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