President’s Report (Stuart gave the report)
When the current directors sat down for the first meeting, it was quickly decided that we would do our best to make the BCGA live up to its full potential; a province-wide association serving all British Columbians. Doing so would prove to be a daunting task. However, we were convinced that it could be achieved with the right amount of promotion and hard work.
It was clear that our success, or failure, was partially dependent on how many new members we could attract during the 2006/07 season. There was a loyal membership base, many of whom were BCGA members since incorporation. But with a total of 45, the membership was woefully low for the size of British Columbia's existing geocaching population.
From the work of previous administrations, the BCGA already had a strong sense of community. The dilemma was to find a way to keep that close-knit BCGA community while expanding across the province.
Many geocachers were consulted on this topic. The general consensus among non members was they knew little about the BCGA or its work. Although they agreed that a dollar a month wasn't much to ask, they felt that it was still too much for what the BCGA offered. This sentiment was intensified with non members outside the lower mainland. The largest hurdle facing expansion was the fee structure.
It was decided that if the BCGA was to expand we'd have to ask our current members to change the fee structure from paid to free membership. An EGM was held two short months after the AGM primarily for this purpose. By vote, membership became free on October of 2006.
At that time, some members exhibited apprehension with the idea of changing the system from paid to free membership. Loosing a source of funding was one concern. There was also apprehension over the type of members free membership would attract. It was asked whether new members would care about the BCGA as much as members who worked within the society for years? The answer to that question came shortly after.
As new membership applications came pouring in, there were new members that took it upon themselves to enclose donations. The BCGA was contacted from people across the province with offers to volunteer their services. Although not every new member may share the same fire for the BCGA, we attracted a lot of good people that may otherwise not have joined.
The BCGA directors are convinced that free membership was the right route to take. Since August 1st, 2006, there has been a dramatic increase from 45 to over 300 members.
With free membership, we came up with other solutions to garner funds.
We asked several local companies to advertise on the BCGA website for a yearly fee of 100 dollars or the equivalent in product. Most if not all companies chose the latter option and supplied the BCGA with some great prizes to furnish our contests. We currently have four advertisers on account.
BCGA 2007 Geocoin:
The BCGA geocoin was introduced partly as a money making venture and partly as a way to thank existing BCGA members for their sponsorship. Any member that paid a fee to join the BCGA prior to the free membership structure received a free BCGA geocoin. All other geocoins were either sold at a fixed price or given as a thank you for a minimum donation. With profits reaching 1000 dollars, this turned out to be a profitable venture for the BCGA.
The BCGA Website:
The BCGA's webpage is the lifeline between the association's directors and its members. It is the primary contact for geocachers, other organizations, and the media. Over the last year, we have tried to make the website live up to its full potential as a communication hub.
The first order of business was to make the website more inviting to everyone. While the overall look was changed to bridge the geocaching outdoor experience with the home computer, revolving headers capturing scenes from around the province were added to the top of the page. With a few clicks of the mouse, cachers around BC can find landmarks close to their home. The headers may appear to be a small gesture, but in conjunction with other efforts, the headers were one way to show people that the BCGA does indeed include the entire province.
Continuing with the theme, we added a block to include milestones. By doing so, British Columbians are able to share personal triumphs, in a small way, with the rest of the world.
We made a point of adding no less than two new news stories a week. It was our hope that a constantly changing website would peak interest. Interest generates more traffic. With more traffic, there is a greater possibility that the geocaching population will participate in the creation of the website itself. It's taken time but in the last couple of months there has been momentum. The caching community has seen that other people have posted news stories and in turn have posted stories themselves.
Lastly, the forums have been reopened. At first they were originally opened to members only while we tested the new system but as of July, they have been open to everyone. Surprisingly, opening the forums to the general public didn't create a huge spike in website traffic.
At this point in time, the webpage receives approximately 35,000 unique page views a month -- more than double the previous two years. Geocachers from around the province are beginning to show active participation online.
We hosted two photo contests this year. These were done for fun for the most part. But they were beneficial in that they are low cost, take very little work to set up, bring people to the website, and are universal. Any geocacher can participate.
Perhaps the most popular contest the BCGA hosts is the Cache Blitz. In its third year, the Cache Blitz was held across BC culminating in events held across the province. Every region of the province participated and a total of 160 caches were hidden making it the most successful Blitz to date.
Events bond the geocaching community. They bring together people that would otherwise meet randomly in the field.
In a province as large as BC, it would be next to impossible to bring all geocachers across the province together for one event. However, the BCGA devised a way to hold several local events across the province on one given weekend. In one case we managed to hold all events on the same day. By doing this, it was our hope to bring local communities together under the banner of the BCGA. Regional geocaching communities could enjoy a local event while being part of something bigger.
In total the BCGA hosted twenty separate events on three different occasions. Although most events were hosted exclusively under the BCGA banner, three were ventures organized in tandem with another event. BCGA events so far have included:
Over 250 people across the province attended the Meet and Greet. In conjunction with the two other Province wide events, The BCGA brought together approximately 1000 geocachers and their families to these festivities. This is the lower end of the estimate.
- Province Wide Meet & Greet: (November 4th, 2006) 6 events in total: Chilliwack, Cranbrook, Royston, Saanich, Vancouver, And Vernon.
- The ABC's of Geocaching: (February 3rd and 4th 2007) 7 events in total: Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Cranbrook, Delta, Kamloops (dual event), Prince George, Saanich.
- BCGA Cache Blitz 2007: (May 5th & 6th, 2007). 7 Events in Total: Vernon, Chilliwack, Saanich, Coquitlam, Nanaimo, Cranbrook, Prince George (dual event)
There is no possible way five directors based in the Southwest corner of the province could have organized all this alone. BCGA members across the province willingly volunteered their services to make these events happen.
With help from these volunteers, the BCGA has created a network joining the major population centres throught BC. At this point in time, the Regional Representatives have mostly agreed to participate on an event to event basis. But this is just a beginning. Over time, there is no reason the BCGA cannot have solid representation in every geocaching hub throught British Columbia.
- Agassiz Angel -- Chilliwack
- Beanichick -- Vernon
- bcrockcrawler, xstitcher, & BMXer -- Nanaimo
- coast2coast2coast -- Royston
- Earthquake -- Kamloops
- Groundhog&Shadow -- Vernon
- Half-Canadian&Scooter the Wonderdog -- Delta
- Keiko's Buddies -- Royston
- Pattycat -- Cranbrook
- Whitebear -- Saanich
- xTerraCacher -- Saanich
Although the BCGA enjoys hosting events, we also encourage members to host events on their own. If asked, the BCGA sends packages to these events which included prizes, signs and, of course, application forms. The costs of these packages are roughly $25.
BCGA members and/or Regional Representatives have been interviewed across the province. Geocaching has been showcased in local newspapers across the province. The BCGA has been directly contacted by the media on several occasions. This has led to a few good news stories in:
- The Georgia Straight
- West Magazine
Scouts Canada hosted the Pacific Scout Jamboree at Camp Byng over the summer. Scout masters who also happen to be geocachers planned a training seminar in geocaching. BCGA members were very generous by donating cache containers. The BCGA itself advertised the event on the webpage and designed a teaching brochure for the occasion. This is a great example how the BCGA can work with other organizations.
Crown of the Continent is a tourism based organization sponsored by National Geographic. It encompasses Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, and Idaho -- Basically the States/ Provinces and Territories that occupy the Rocky Mountains or "Crown" Region of North America. The Cranbrook Tourism Centre in conjunction with the Historical Branch of the local College are toying with the idea of setting up a geocache trail following some of BC's historic areas. This project is in the planning stages but if we are able to set it up, there is a possibility that geocaching will be showcased in an article in National Geographic Traveller Magazine.
The BCGA has been in contact with BC Parks. We've developed an excellent working relationship with the provincial parks board. Visitors to the website may have noticed that BC Parks is planning to include geocaching the next time they revamp their website. They have asked the BCGA to conduct a survey of the best geocaches located in BC's Provincial Parks.
After two years, Parks Canada released their policy on geocaching last week. Although we were prepared to continue talks with parks Canada the bulk of the work had been done by the previous administration. Thanks to Ken (Chillibusher) for acting on behalf of the BCGA and the successful outcome it produced.
Civic Park Boards
Although issues with Parks Canada and BC Parks have been settled, as geocaching grows in popularity it's also important to know where we stand with civic park boards.
Nina and Jeff are in the process of setting up seminars in Burnaby, Coquitlam and Surrey. This is a project that cannot be done under the BCGA banner due to liability concerns. However, these are definitely BCGA related projects.
One recent concern that has been brought to our attention by Pharmadude and Legacypac (Cameron) is how the ban in Sunnyside Acres transpired. It appears that it was not the city of Surrey that banned geocaching. A special interest group called "The Sunnyside Acres Heritage Society" acted as stewards of the park, created a sock puppet handle on geocaching.com, and told our local approver to halt all caches in the north side of the park.
We have asked for a meeting with Surrey Parks and Recreation to discuss this. A PowerPoint presentation has been prepared for the meeting.
One last project almost finalized is a brochure. These brochures will be designed to peak interest in people who know little about the sport. They will be placed in Local businesses, Park/Tourist kiosks across the province.
Some of these projects are currently ongoing. Although we were aware that an election was looming, we did not want to sit idle. We realize it would be unfair to drop a load of work on a new administrations lap. So, regardless of the outcome of the elections, we're prepared (with the member's permission) to finish the projects we have started.
Prince George recently set up a local geocaching group. This is the first time the head of the local organization is also the Regional Representative for the BCGA. Members of the "Prince George & Area Geocachers" will not only be free to join but encouraged to join the BCGA. As the local organization grows, so will we. This is a milestone in its own right. There is no US versus THEM. This is an alliance. And hopefully this will be a template for future relationships between the BCGA and regional groups.
All in all, this has been a great year for the BCGA. We may not have reached every corner of the province, but it is a beginning. By establishing roots in population centres around BC, we've made the BCGA accessible to a high percentage of the geocaching population. It is our hope that geocachers across BC know the BCGA is here to serve in any way we can.