By Nicole Montesano
Of the News-Register
ORIGON - After listening to pleas from nine enthusiastic metal-detector hobbyists, two of whom drove all the way from Portland, Parks and Recreation Director Jay Pearson said he's inclined to see McMinnville lift its longstanding ban on use of detectors in city parks.
They said they would be willing to follow rules designed to protect the parks from damage and respect the rights of other users. They said they would also be willing to educate fellow enthusiasts about those rules, and to take out permits to add a layer of individual accountability.
Pearson applauded the hobbyists on its willingness to step up and accept responsibility. He said that's what he needed to hear more than anything else.
He urged them to organize a local metal-detecting club to facilitate an ongoing relationship with the city and an educational program.
McMinnville resident Terry Curl said he liked the idea of creating a formal organization and obtaining formal permits.
"It could help us if we go to another area," he said. "We can say, 'We're members of the McMinnville Club,' and they can see that we're responsible."
Pearson promised to schedule a follow-up meeting in January or February. He hopes to have drafted set of rules ready for consideration by that time.
He said he might also take some of the hobbyists up on an offer to demonstrate their techniques for members of the city's parks maintenance crew in order to alleviate staff concerns.
Pearson said the city banned metal detecting a number of years ago, after some people caused problems. He said the biggest problem was use of garden shovels or like tools to dig up finds, as it caused considerable damage to the grass.
However, the two from Portland, who belong to a club there, said the hobby can and should be practiced far less destructively.
They and others in attendance said the preferred technique is to use the device to pinpoint the location of a find, carefully cut and fold back a small section of sod, dig out the object with as much care as possible, re-fill the hole and gently tamping the sod back into place. They said that allows the grass to re-root, leaving little or no trace.
They told Pearson they would have no objection to the city requiring the use of either a pin pointer or probe to help ensure best practices.
"I also like the idea of having a written paper to explain what you expect," McMinnville resident Larry Cooper told Pearson. "You can hand it out when you give the permits," suggested McMinnville resident Bill Halsne.
They also assured Pearson that standard practice is to remove all finds, in the spirit of public-mindedness, whether they are coveted items like coins or rings or waste items like bottle caps.
The atmosphere chilled a bit when Pearson asked how they would feel about submitting to checks in order to obtain permits. Several seemed insulted, others that they would not object.
"If it would allow us to metal detect in the parks, I'm for it," Halsne said.
Pearson said there would likely still be some restrictions.
Joe Dancer Park would likely be off limits, he said, because it is the home of the city's sports fields. He said Kiwanis Marine Park, the Rotary Nature Preserve and Airport Park might also be placed off limits.
Several of the hobbyists counted by suggesting detecting be allowed at Dancer, but limited to surface detecting and/or to detecting only at certain times of year. Pearson said he would consider the idea.
Courtesy News Register
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