A geocaching container was mistaken for a pipe bomb at Talking Water Gardens on Thursday afternoon, and an Oregon State Police bomb squad responded to detonate the device.
Sgt. Stephanie Warren of the Albany Police Department said it was extremely poor judgement to use a section of dark-painted PVC pipe, capped at both ends, as a geocaching container.
Even the bomb squad couldn’t tell if the cache was an explosive device, she added.
Albany police, fire and parks employees responded to the popular wetlands walking area at about 1:11 p.m. Talking Water Gardens was closed for about two hours, and a fire engine was on standby as the bomb squad examined the device.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Warren said. “I am not happy. I think it’s ridiculous. Who does that in today’s day and age?”
She added that in similar incidents in the future, police may cite those responsible for disorderly conduct, as well as bill them for the emergency service response.
In geocaching, participants hide and seek containers called caches. The caches are found using GPS or other navigational techniques, and the containers often include a scrap of paper that serves as a logbook and treasures of little to no monetary value.
Tom Ten Pas, city of Albany wetlands manager, said walkers noticed the cache on Wednesday and thought it was suspicious. One of them looked online and saw pipe bombs that looked similar.
“They came out again (Thursday), saw it was there, called police and alerted us,” Ten Pas said.
“Obviously, it was much ado about nothing, but we didn’t know that,” he said.
Warren said that until bomb squad workers destroyed the container, they weren’t sure if it was metal or plastic.
Ten Pas said geocachers should use clear plastic containers, such as Tupperware, so people can see what is inside.
Using a pipe with screw caps on both ends is asking for a problem, he added.
“If we can educate geocache folks so they don’t do this in the future, this incident will have been beneficial,” Ten Pas said.