At council on March 26, Merritt city council heard a request for the city’s agreement with the Gold Country Communities Society (GCSS) to change from one year at $8,000 per year to three years at the same rate.

Benefits of the program include coverage in the Gold Country Visitor’s Guide, promotion of Merritt as a geocache community through their GeoTourism Program, inclusion in familiarization tours of the region, use of video and photo imaging, and a seat at the board of directors.

“Gold Country Communities Society is a society based on community involvement from medium sized communities to very small unincorporated communities as well as the TNRD areas,” said James Umpherson, economic development manager for the City of Merritt.

GCSS encompasses a large area from west of Kamloops to Merritt to Lilooet and most of TNRD. Rural areas contribute to the group through taxes, while municipalities contribute through membership fees.

“One of the benefits of belonging is that geocaching is a tremendous activity in B.C., Canada and the world,” said Umpherson. “We get a lot of geocachers coming through the City of Merritt. A lot of their (GCCS) launches of various projects come through Merritt. They do familiarization tours with different groups and different people that come to the city. The average person spends $125 per day in the communities that have geocaches. It’s a significant per capita investment in the City of Merritt.”

Council, on the recommendation of Umpherson, declined the three year deal and decided to stay with a one year commitment at $8,000 per year.

Merritt Mayor Susan Roline agrees that being involved with Gold Country provides many benefits to the city.

“We’re on their website, we’re in their visitor’s guide,” she said. “They represent us when they go to trade shows; they provide advertising in trade magazines, so we don’t have to do that. Merritt is the gateway into Gold Country, so we benefit greatly from being involved. They do a lot of kick-offs here and lots of geocaching events here.”

Merritt will be hosting the kick-off to the first annual Gold Country Geocaching Poker Run: Cache in Your Chips on June 28. The event features 24 poker run stops and a minimum of 100 brand new geocaches hidden throughout Gold Country.

“It’s an increasingly growing activity,” said Roline. “Families can participate in it. All ages can participate. It suits a broad range of people. Gold Country geocaching is one of the only recognized geocaching in the whole northwest. “There was a big piece about it in the Seattle Times and in the New York Times, so we got a lot of mileage out of those.”