2016/12/08

The Role of Grottos in the Outside Community

My previous blog post discussed the role of grottos in the caving community. It focused on the internal aspects of grottos as way of making better cavers. This post will focus on the external aspects of a grotto and ways they can make your city, county, or region a better place to live, work, and play.

Education

Sherrill Wilson, Merrybranch Cave, White County, Tennessee 2 There are some cavers who want to keep the sport a secret. I won't tell you what you need to keep secret, and what you need to share. There are many different philosophies on this, each with its merits and drawbacks. What I think we can all agree on is that if people are better educated about caves, then they will be better stewards of caves and the land.

Education may simply be informing people of the leave no trace ethic that we practice. It may be discussing safety and proper caving gear. It may be helping people understand the connection between sinkholes and the well water they drink.

We get to see the Earth from the inside out, and that makes our relationship with it different than most people's. Where I live many rivers run underground. Some of these rivers are horribly polluted with chemicals and trash. If they looked like that on the surface people would get angry and do something about it. Because it is out of sight to most people, we must bring it to their mind.


Cleanup, Pilot Knob Cave, Jackson County, Tennessee

Volunteer


In my previous post I talked about ways to volunteer within the caving community. We can also be volunteering or partnering outside the caving community and working with organizations to help make the world a better place.

The Upper Cumberland Grotto has partnered to do clean ups with groups like the Boy Scouts of America, Putnam County Clean Commission, The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to name a few. For a smaller grotto, hosting one major cleanup a year is a good goal.

Other volunteer opportunities may be talking with local schools about cave related issues, or leading a field trip of college students. I try not to miss an opportunity to educate.

Daphne Soares,  Dante Fenolio, Anderson Spring Cave, Putnam Co, TN

Liaison


Sometimes people need help with caves and sometimes those people don't know they need help from a caver. Land developers usually don't think twice about building adjacent to caves. But if we have a map of the cave and permission to share it, we may be able to help protect the cave and the financial interests of the developer. That's a win-win situation!

There are several biologists who work in caves, and the Tennessee Cave Survey has along history of working with them to collect specimens and data within the cave. Many of us have become adept at finding and identifying cave critters.

Garrett Gay, total station, Natural Trap Cave, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Big Horn County, Wyoming Other scientists may need a caver liaison as well. At Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming in the Summer of 2016 cavers equipped and trained a large team of paleontologists on single rope technique so they could examine and dig in this pristine and one of a kind cave.

Archaeologists, historians, microbiologists, geologists, and other scientists use information provided to them from observant cavers to make discoveries.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways your grotto can be helping your community. Feel free to share you community involvement stories with me in the comments. :)
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