An example of why NOT to ask at innocuous public places (Long)

Tom_in_CA

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The issue of when, what, where, etc.... you/we need to "ask permission" (or inquire of laws, etc....) for public places comes up a lot. And for good reason! After all, you can never be too safe, eh? For purposes of this thread, this is NOT for obvious historical monuments, known off-limits federal sacred spots, etc.... This is just for run-of-the-mill beaches, city parks, school yards, etc.... ok? So no one go make the leap "gee, I guess you think we can just tromp on the White house lawn", blah blah blah".

As I read on md'ing websites, people sometimes ask: "can I detect here...? " or "can I detect there....?". Invariably, others will chime in "ask the powers-that-be" (and even to the extent "get it in writing", etc....). I have always suggested that this is the LAST thing you/we want to do. You may simply bring up a subject that .... even if it is not explicity spelled out .... you merely give space for some bureaucrat to simply say "no", just because he/she said so. Or they can morph another rule ("don't disturb the vegetation" or "cultural heritage" stuff) and presto, you've got a "no", where no one ever cared or noticed before.

I began to wonder if there was an example of this theory, at places around me. That is: places where everyone and anyone has detected since the dawn of time, where no one ever had a problem. But that if you asked enough questions, of enough people, far enough up the ladder, you might get a "no".

OK: so where I'm at in CA, there are various sections of our coast line that got green environmental protection status back in the 1970s & '80s. Ie.: no oil-drilling, no kelp harvesting, fishing regulations, building prohibitions, etc..... The logic was simple: There are zones along the coast here that are world-class diving destinations, whale watching, undersea marvels, etc.... Scuba diving, for example, brings people from all over the nation to destinations around the Monterey Peninsula. So eventually, in order to protect and preserve, an over-arching entity called the "Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary" was formed in 1992. In spite of its name ("Monterey Bay ...") its rules encompass 276 miles of coast-line. All the beaches from north of San Francisco, south to San Luis Obispo. Naturally, beaches within this length, can be city, county, state, and federally owned. If there is any cross-over, silences, or contradictions, the "stricter rule prevails". Here's their website:

http://montereybay.noaa.gov/welcome.html

I decided to use this entity, as a test sample, to see if hunters might in fact get a "no", if we were to "ask". I studied their website material, and found this quotation amongst their list of things that were prohibited:

"Possessing, moving, removing, or injuring, or attempting to possess, move, remove, or injure, a Sanctuary historical resource."

Now I suppose most md'rs would read this, and think "it doesn't mention metal detecting, and I don't particularly think that a mercury dime, etc... is 'historical', so I won't even pay any mind to this". Yet there are others who would say that it is up to our duty to inquire as to whether this applies to metal detecting. Or better yet, get written permission from the proper entities that control. Afterall, you MIGHT find an old coin, right? It MIGHT be considered a historical resource, right? You MIGHT give our hobby a bad name by not inquiring, right? You MIGHT get arrested, equipment confiscated, spend time in jail, and pay fines, right? Afterall, you can't be TOO safe, right?

Mind you, the beaches here are routinely detected, for many decades. (All except a federal beach near SF, where rumor has it, they enforce something, d/t it's federal). For those of us who've been at it since the 1970s, it might seem odd to ask now, if it's simply been done, no problems, for as long as anyone can remember. On Santa Cruz Main beach, for example, there will be 5 or 6 guys plying the beach every Monday morning after the weekend throngs.

Next, I clicked on the "contact us" tab, and sent them this inquiry:

" ..... how is a "historical resource" defined? "

I did not mention my name, not did I mention metal detecting. I gave though, as an example "what if a person were to see a horseshoe sticking out of the sand after some beach erosion? Or pretty surf-polished glass shards?" Here was their answer:


" 1. The terms "historical resource" and "cultural resources" are defined in federal regulations for the National Marine Sanctuary Program at Title 15 of the US Code of Federal Regulations, Section 922.3. (See http://montereybay.noaa.gov/intro/mp/regs.html#code). Objects of special national or cultural significance (e.g. Air Force One) would be immediately considered an historic resource, regardless of age, upon entering the sanctuary. More typically, applicable objects within the sanctuary become historical artifacts when their age exceeds 50 years.

2. In response to your quesions about horse shoes and broken glass, a related incident occurred several years ago. A couple discovered an old wagon wheel (approx 100 years old) exposed within the intertidal zone following a winter storm and took it home. They subsequently had to surrender the wheel to law enforcement authorities, as their collection and possession of it violated both federal and state law. With regard to polished glass shards, an enforcement officer could question removal if he/she felt there was a reasonable possibility that such objects meet the definition of an historical resource. To confirm a violation would require confiscation of the objects and subsequent assessment to determine their age and origin. This might be a practical exercise if, for example, someone were in possession of such objects near a known wrecksite for a vessel that had been carrying a large cargo of glass items. There is no guaranteed answer to your question, however - potential violations for such activities would be case dependent
.
"

So you tell me: Do you continue to detect if you live here, and something like this never even dawned on you? If you're travelling to CA, do you read stuff like this, and assume you can't detect those beaches? Or do you inquire of locals, who tell you "nah, no one cares" and then just do it? Do you say that all the current beach md'rs in this zone are guilty of failing the md'rs code-of-ethics?

This, to me, just reaks of the climate I think is replicated a LOT of places in the USA. Sure, maybe NOW places get rules and enforcement and clarifications, but how many do you think maybe started like this (where it wasn't specifically spelled out by name, and no one particularly cared), yet when you get enough people asking, petitioning, asking for clarifications, asking for written permission, and PRESTO! You get places that are now off-limits, given enough squeeky wheels. Do you see?

Naturally, in my anonymous inquiries, I didn't mention metal detecting, so it's not an issue here. But you can see that it wouldn't take much of a leap for someone in this bureaucracy to say "no metal detecting" (and perhaps pass down memo's to the rank-&-file rangers) if persons were to specifically ask. I mean, look at the wagon wheel example. Why would a barber dime be any different? ::) Of course, I don't intend to ever ask, and I hope that no one here (visitors, locals, etc...) ever asks either. Things are just fine! I only use this an example, in the public-innocuous-places-permission thing.
 

airborne1092

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My take if anyone cares?

I'm in the Army and I learned something a long time ago. A co-worker showed me how, by and large human nature was to err on the side of caution. If you ask someone if you can do something - lets say go home early because all your work is complete, then 99 out of 100 times they'll tell you no. On the flip side, if you tell someone you're leaving early because your work is complete for the day and you'll be available on your cell phone if the need arises, well, folks generally don't like conflict and they'll nod and smile.

I guess what I'm getting at is, go ahead and do what you need to do, but be responsible. If you find that 1500 year old Chinese ship or that lode of Spanish gold, inform the proper authorities/agencies. Don't destroy that 300 year old Redwood or dig huge sinkholes in the beach just to recover that 1923 silver dollar - IMO the landscape is worth more to all of us than that SD is worth to you.

Look and act like you know what you're doing. For example, know the rules and be sure you can argue your interpretation of them, because whether intentional or unintentional, the bureaucrats left the laws vague and open-ended. If someone puts you on the spot and tells you (their idea of) what you can and cannot do, tell them what you're doing and how your going to do it. Do so in a fashion that doesn't allow them to disagree with you and certainly don't try to sway them to your way of seeing things. The simple fact that you're confident and sound like you know what you're talking about, surprisingly enough, will sway them to generally agree with you over time. It's human nature. If you argue and try to 'sell' them on your idea, they smell it a mile away and resist you.

Know what you're looking for and know what you've found. If you find something like, a wagon wheel on the beech and the authorities take it away, know what you've found and know how to articulate why you don't feel it's significant enough to be considered 'historic' to the area it was found. A 'Barber' from the beech, while more that "50 years old" doesn't belong there. To me, technically, it's currency and if I find it then I should be able to keep it to spend it. If I don't spend it but rather set it on my radiator heater and look at it for the next 7 years or loose it in my couch, well, I guess that’s my loss for not having an extra .10 cents in my pocket. A wagon wheel doesn't belong on the beech and it certainly doesn't add any ambiance to the site. Folks don't take vacations to California to visit the wagon wheel beeches, so IMO let 'em keep the stupid wagon wheel. On the other side, if the State kept the wheel because of its historic value, then they were remiss and abusive if they didn't investigate the area further and see if there was anything else there, like the lost scouting party of Donners that went to fetch water.

A law regarding wetlands in my home state of Washington says that in areas designated wetlands, you cannot remove even an automobile tire from the area, because it's considered to be a part of the environment! To me, the damage of a tire decomposing in a fragile ecosystem such as a wetland does far greater damage over the course of time than it would if I were to slosh out there and remove it, ripping up a square foot of cattails and depriving a few frogs a place to live.

That's just my 2 cents, wrapped in a dollar bill.
 

scrubber

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Tom, yours is an excellent example of the ambiguity of the law and how they can use that ambiguity to selectively enforce. How are we supposed to avoid getting into trouble when the bureaucrats don't even know what to tell us. With that muddiness of the law, I feel they should never prosecute for the offense, but only confiscate. And even then, if you have a good attorney, they may not even get away with that, again due to the ambiguity of the law.

And to airborne1092, I think it's absolutely true that we need to formulate in our minds what our "defense" will be before taking that wagonwheel.

scrubber
 
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Tom_in_CA

Tom_in_CA

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scrubber, you ask: "How are we supposed to avoid getting into trouble when the bureaucrats don't even know what to tell us" The answer? You won't get in trouble (apparently) if you don't ask, don't make waves, etc... Like picking your nose: just do it discreetly, and no one cares. Ask someone "can I pick my nose?" and they will tell you "no" and start to watch you.
 

scrubber

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Tom_in_CA said:
scrubber, you ask: "How are we supposed to avoid getting into trouble when the bureaucrats don't even know what to tell us" The answer? You won't get in trouble (apparently) if you don't ask, don't make waves, etc... Like picking your nose: just do it discreetly, and no one cares. Ask someone "can I pick my nose?" and they will tell you "no" and start to watch you.

Of course if no one sees you remove something, and it doesn't become known to the wrong people after the fact that you did, then there won't be a problem. That's understood. My concern is when you are caught with the goods so to speak. I wasn't talking about the asking permission thing. Your example is not a case when I would advocate asking permission. I'm with you on that. Just wanted to make that clear. :)

scrubber
 
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BIG61AL

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Great! Now I have ask the park ranger if I can pick my nose. There might be some "historical" dirt in my booger.What if I just leave it with the park ranger?
 

RPG

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To ask or not to ask, this is the question.

My answer.

Don't ask and you will not get "no" for an answer.

This doesn't apply to private owned land. Be aware of the laws in your area.
If it is city, county or state owned land and no signs are posted, they can only tell you to leave.

Federal owned land is a different story. Beware.
 

MD Dog

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RPG said:
To ask or not to ask, this is the question.

My answer.

Don't ask and you will not get "no" for an answer.
(Disclaimer)
This doesn't apply to private owned land. Be aware of the laws in your area.
If it is city, county or state owned land and no signs are posted, they can only tell you to leave.

Federal owned land is a different story. Beware.

Just thought I'd mod your post RPG so it looked right. ;D :D :wink:
 

curbdiggercarl57

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Excellent post, and for the most part, quality responses. Feel like I just splashed ice cold water on my face, waking up after reading, (and sometimes sadly responding), to some recent posts. I earlier mentioned a person I met detecting out here in Denver that carries the city's rules pertaining to curbs. It says that the city owns the curbs, but the owner who lives at the property must maintain it. But you can detect it. Justifiably annoys the homeowners, so I usually will seek permission. Usually. if I'm driving by an 1880's area with the curbs scraped or torn up, and I knock at the door, and no one's home, the detector is out of the car trunk in a heartbeat. Hasn't happen yet, but if I dug some gold jewelery, I would go back and mention, (not describe specifically) if whether or not they ever lost anything.
 

aa battery

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tom for a long time i wuznt sure of some of your posts but after this post your right on. :thumbsup:
 

UncleVinnys

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Great topic - thanks for bringing it up.

I suspect there are many answers, and the "correct" one would vary depending on circumstances.
I get your drift though - sometimes when you open your mouth, the foot goes in.

There's one theory - not saying I endorse it - that says
it's much easier to do whatever you want and apologize later ???
if you have to - that is, the play dumb approach. :P
 

George (MN)

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May 16, 2005
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I mostly agree with the many good comments here. But in some states they fine people for detecting in state parks & even state forests. There was even an article in a local paper saying there is a $500 fine for detecting in MN state forests "because any land could be Indian land".

As for state parks, I'm pretty sure they would issue a fine in MN for detecting, because I know they have fines for other trivialities. Just for example, as of a few years ago in MN $65 fine for each beer a person drinks in a state park, or maybe even if they don't open them? It was $35 fine per beer in WI state parks. In WI, someone detecting a state park decades ago was not even allowed to keep the new pennies.

Fishing fines: fines for each fish out of season , over limit , above or below a specified length, varies with type of fish & may be different for each of 15,000 lakes in MN.

If anyone is wondering what beer & fishing have to do with detecting, it's the Department of *Natural* Resources that controls all these things on state lands. But saying coins aren't natural, they're made by people wouldn't hold up in court as there's always no digging or disturbing the soil. HH, George (MN)
 

deepskyal

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Hey George,

Don't know about your parks, but here in Pa., State parks have rules clearly posted about "No Alcoholic Beverages".

When you buy your fishing license, you generally get the current book of regulations with it. It is common knowledge that fishing comes with special rules and some places have their 'special regulations' posted.

I'm a sign person. If I see one, I read the rules and take it from there.

I've seen signs saying no golfing, no kite flying, no horse back riding, etc., but only once in all my years have I seen a No Metal Detecting sign.....and it was quite large, bold lettering. This sign was at a ghost town that was just mowed grass with obvious cellar holes, no buildings...but they apparently knew about metal detecting and the value of doing so at the site. Or possibly, someone detected it earlier and left a mess.

When I started detecting, there were no personal computers or internet. I relyed on signs to let me know what I could or could not do.
Rules morph from obvious damage, abuse or complainers. No kite flying because of overhead power lines, no golfing because they knock out huge divots, no horseback riding because of poo or trail damage, etc...

Outside of their obvious cry of 'historical artifact', metal detecting stays below the radar because most of us use common sense in this hobby and don't damage or abuse the grounds we hunt.

I've hunted our state gamelands in the past, oblivious to any no metal detecting rule because there was nothing in their billboard size sign welcoming you to the gamelands with the general rules listed.
It was only recently I became aware of such a rule...thru the internet. So what if I didn't have internet?
I'd continue to rely on their signs.

They think enough of all these other issues to post them...so if they don't want me detecting there, they should post it also....not some grey area rule like 'don't disturb the vegetation'. Golfing disturbs the vegetation, leaving very large divots in the grassy, lawn areas, so they rule against it. Does metal detecting really disturb the vegetation? Not if done properly.

If they can post No metal detecting at one site, they can post it where ever they don't want me.

In all my years, I never thought to ask at a public park if I could or could not detect. I never considered it an issue til the internet came along. And I am still NOT inclined to ask permission at a public area. It's those grey area rules the people in power cite to err on the side of caution if they think digging may cause damage.

I think Tom did a very good job of sticking his toe in the water to see what exactly the response would be to a vague query of historical definitions. He got a vague response...their response, to err on the side of caution....case by case.

I like and accept actual examples...not rumors of "I heard so-and-so got fined for detecting". When I see it in print or when someone cites an actual incident they know and witnessed first hand, then I become a believer.
Until then, I'm just the old, oblivious, metal detector guy staying below the radar, enjoying my hobby in a safe and responsible manner.

Al
 

RPG

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MD Dog said:
RPG said:
To ask or not to ask, this is the question.

My answer.

Don't ask and you will not get "no" for an answer.
(Disclaimer)
This doesn't apply to private owned land. Be aware of the laws in your area.
If it is city, county or state owned land and no signs are posted, they can only tell you to leave.

Federal owned land is a different story. Beware.

Just thought I'd mod your post RPG so it looked right. ;D :D :wink:

Thanks MD Dog...I forgot to make the small print small. :D
 

lastleg

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Feb 3, 2008
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Deepskyal, Have you ever seen a sign that read "Please do
not use metal detectors. Sentimental reasons. Thank you" ?

lastleg
 
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Tom_in_CA

Tom_in_CA

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Allen, how does your point work in the situation I post here, at the start of this thread? Ie.: why doesn't anyone "get arrested" and "go to jail" here? :icon_scratch: And what would happen, with the specifics/legalities I point out here, if persons were to seek permission in my example case?

So I'm trying to make sense of your post, in light of the facts given in this example.
 
Last edited:

302guy

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My take if anyone cares?

I'm in the Army and I learned something a long time ago. A co-worker showed me how, by and large human nature was to err on the side of caution. If you ask someone if you can do something - lets say go home early because all your work is complete, then 99 out of 100 times they'll tell you no. On the flip side, if you tell someone you're leaving early because your work is complete for the day and you'll be available on your cell phone if the need arises, well, folks generally don't like conflict and they'll nod and smile.

I guess what I'm getting at is, go ahead and do what you need to do, but be responsible. If you find that 1500 year old Chinese ship or that lode of Spanish gold, inform the proper authorities/agencies. Don't destroy that 300 year old Redwood or dig huge sinkholes in the beach just to recover that 1923 silver dollar - IMO the landscape is worth more to all of us than that SD is worth to you.

Look and act like you know what you're doing. For example, know the rules and be sure you can argue your interpretation of them, because whether intentional or unintentional, the bureaucrats left the laws vague and open-ended. If someone puts you on the spot and tells you (their idea of) what you can and cannot do, tell them what you're doing and how your going to do it. Do so in a fashion that doesn't allow them to disagree with you and certainly don't try to sway them to your way of seeing things. The simple fact that you're confident and sound like you know what you're talking about, surprisingly enough, will sway them to generally agree with you over time. It's human nature. If you argue and try to 'sell' them on your idea, they smell it a mile away and resist you.

Know what you're looking for and know what you've found. If you find something like, a wagon wheel on the beech and the authorities take it away, know what you've found and know how to articulate why you don't feel it's significant enough to be considered 'historic' to the area it was found. A 'Barber' from the beech, while more that "50 years old" doesn't belong there. To me, technically, it's currency and if I find it then I should be able to keep it to spend it. If I don't spend it but rather set it on my radiator heater and look at it for the next 7 years or loose it in my couch, well, I guess that’s my loss for not having an extra .10 cents in my pocket. A wagon wheel doesn't belong on the beech and it certainly doesn't add any ambiance to the site. Folks don't take vacations to California to visit the wagon wheel beeches, so IMO let 'em keep the stupid wagon wheel. On the other side, if the State kept the wheel because of its historic value, then they were remiss and abusive if they didn't investigate the area further and see if there was anything else there, like the lost scouting party of Donners that went to fetch water.

A law regarding wetlands in my home state of Washington says that in areas designated wetlands, you cannot remove even an automobile tire from the area, because it's considered to be a part of the environment! To me, the damage of a tire decomposing in a fragile ecosystem such as a wetland does far greater damage over the course of time than it would if I were to slosh out there and remove it, ripping up a square foot of cattails and depriving a few frogs a place to live.

That's just my 2 cents, wrapped in a dollar bill.


This is a little late but I see the logic in that. While volunteering at a Church festival as a small group of "facilitators" who handled all the set-up, tear-down and problems in between, one of our crew invariably always found more work than we needed. Simple little things...so I hung out with him. Sure enough he would get asked to fix something, then fix it and go back to the person and say "it's done, do you need anything else?" 100% of the time they would find another unnecessary and time consuming chore for us. So I told him to watch an old pro.. We'd do the task then I'd walk up and tell them "It's all done. We'll be around all day so I'll check in with you later and make sure you are still doing ok." By TELLING them I took the upper hand, where as by asking them he was unintentionally asking them for more work. So they felt they were helping him out by obliging. By telling them you would check to make sure they were OK they wanted to prove they could handle things themselves and didn't need a babysitter. He thought I was a Psychologist. I told him "No, a contractor"...read my siggy....

Sometimes it is wiser to ask forgiveness then to ask permission.
 

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