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rockytoprockshop
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Legal rights of being a Rockhound
Dec 28th, 2017 at 9:56am
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Its been some time since I was last on Rockhoundlounge. I made an early New's Years resolution that I would get back into field collecting in 2018 and in general, do my best to keep my spirits high and pursue my hobby more aggressive than I have been in the last couple of years.

With that said, I want to mention something that happened to me last Saturday. I welcome anyone who has had similar experiences to comment on this as I think it was unconstitutional. A friend and I went out looking for rocks. We passed some road construction associated with a new bypass. We found a secondary road that had been abandoned so that the bypass could be built across it. This was a state maintained road that had been terminated and at the end of it a temporary construction gravel area built with a sign that read "road closed ahead". There were no posted signs anywhere, after all this was a public tax payer funded road.

It was a holiday so there was no work on the bypass. We had spotted some huge quartz boulders off in the distance and at the end of this road the highway contractors had cut the embankment down to the wide expanse of the future highway. I decided to stay close to the parking area as there was quartz there as well. My friend looked a little further on the bypass. There was a house near the end of this road and there was a lady out in her yard looking at us. I had a bad feelings about that immediately. Sure enough, not 5 minutes later, here comes a police officer.

He pulled beside me and asked what I was doing. I told him "looking for rocks". He said "ok, I'm going to have to ask you to move along". I said "on what grounds, what did I do?" He said, "well nothing really, but you can't be on this property". I replied "we are not on private property we are on public tax payer funded highway property there are no trespassing signs." He said "yeah I understand but that sign says road closed ahead". Since when does a road closed sign mean anything other than one can't drive a vehicle beyond a certain point? By this time, my friend came back up to the car and asked what was going on. The officer then told us "look we've had allot of problems with drugs and stealing in this area and we don't want any problems so move along". My friend said, "well officer, we're not druggies nor thief's just a couple of simple working class tax paying citizen's out trying to enjoy our day off to find a few rocks." The officer then replied "look, if you want to come back when the road construction folks are here and get their permission and a letter from the foreman, I don't have a problem with that." My buddy said, correct me if I am wrong but since when does a privately contracted site contractor have the authority to issue permission to an American citizen who's tax dollars use to give them the right to access publicly funded highway projects?" well this pissed him off. From there we were both told to move on basically in an authoritative manner.

Now I know that a many a rockhound has collected from highway construction and road banks over the years. Thousands of fantastic specimens have been recovered this way. Even many of the government produced bulletins and publications about minerals such as circular 16 "Mineral Collecting Localities of North Carolina" have references and information to collectors advising them where and where not to prospect and these publications even state that road cuts and road construction are good places for the collector to look! Since when did it become unacceptable for a person to pick up rocks on tax payer funded construction areas?

Is this something new? Is this part of a bigger "police state" mentality being shoved down our throats? I guess because I went for a while and didn't get out much collecting I am surprised by this? It may be happening to others too? I can see if there are posted signs clearly marked or if the land is private development but highway clearing? Isn't that funded by you and I, the tax payer? No wonder the cost of mineral specimens have sky-rocketed in the pass few years, the suppression of the rights for collectors is getting to the point that its almost communist!

Just look at the regulations placed upon collectors today just to collect specimens from old mine sites that are one National Forest properties such as the case for the Ray Mine and others! Properties where you are not disturbing anything because they are already mined! Yet, collectors are often only allowed to surface collect with tiny spades and screw drivers! How did we let these rights be taken away from us? If this trend continues, there will be very few options for the field collector.
  
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Scott LaBorde
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Re: Legal rights of being a Rockhound
Reply #1 - Dec 28th, 2017 at 1:34pm
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Well that was an unfortunate turn of events in your case. This can be a really sensitive and convoluted subject to get into. Fortunately for me, I've not had this type of problem unless a private land owner is involved and doesn't want you near their property. The police in your situation I'm sure just wanted to resolve the situation as soon as possible and it was much easier to ask you to leave than to research the laws and rights. It was much easier for him to say leave and be done with it. If the person didn't call the police on you there would have been no problem. Every single time I've encountered the police during my prospecting it has always been an amicable encounter. When I told them what I was doing and showed them specimens I've found they were always fine. I was told to leave from a couple construction sites by police in the past but again it was amicable and of course I just stayed away from then on. But then of course I've never had a private land owner call the police on me either.

That being said it does seem the nation as a whole has become much more anti-social than in the past. I always hear stories about everyone being able to prospect in all these places in the past and one by one they all got shut down and posted by the owners and it's only getting tougher. It's just part of the changing tide affected by the population boom, the internet, crazy people shooting up places, bitcoin, climate change, presidents, flat earthers, santa clause deniers, etc, etc, etc, etc.  There's nothing you can pin down in this crazy world we live in.

It is what it is right now. The best thing we can do is be as professional, amiable, and personable as possible when dealing with the locals or law enforcement. That attitude will be remembered and shared with others, thus sowing the seeds for friendly encounters in the future.

I hope your encounter doesn't leave that sour taste too long, as I do feel it was an isolated type of situation. A very similar thing happened to me just a few weeks back when I stopped to check out a construction site. Just after parking my car and slipping my gloves on to do some prospecting, this lady comes running out from a house nearby already with a very belligerent attitude asking me who I was and what I was doing. Well the first thing she said was that the entire sight was posted and that she was going to call the developer on me if I didn't leave immediately. Well she lied as there was not one posted sign anywhere. I then later she tells me that someone had stolen all of her rocks recently. And I was thinking to myself "as if I had something to do with that".  Roll Eyes  Anyway, I knew that she had no right to tell me what to do and that she had no affiliation with the developer, she just didn't want me back there because somebody else stole her rocks.  But rather than cause a fuss I just left. It's incredibly unfortunate that some people will automatically pool everyone in the same pool as the a-holes unless they personally know them or are relatives. She never gave me the chance to introduce myself or have any sort of civil discussion -- she just wanted me gone or else she was going to take action. So the next time I just parked out of site and made sure to avoid going near her home and still got to prospect the site anyway. It sucks that we have to jump through hoops because of people, but to me it's just always been part of the game. The thrill of the hunt magnified. No pain no gain.

Scott
  

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JoeM
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Re: Legal rights of being a Rockhound
Reply #2 - Dec 28th, 2017 at 1:37pm
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Hey Rockytop! Good to hear from you and your positive, motivated plans for the New Year! Smiley
Sounds like you just got unlucky that day. It happens.
Reminds me of that great old rockabilly song, "I fought the law, and the law won." Grin
Put yourself in that lady who now lives at the "End" of the road "Next" to a future major highway position. I'd be bitchin' about everything that moves too! It was just the universe colliding.

You just have to drive around and find another spot.
No one wants to make a big deal about a bunch of rockhounds looking for rocks, but as far as any NCState project goes, you don't have "permission" to be out there unless someone has given you permission. Even tho I love to use that "I pay my taxes", line too, it's not going to make much difference when talking to the law unless you can prove you have permission. Wink

State property is not open to the public unless posted that it is.
You can not be fined for trespassing unless the property is posted, No trespassing.
Doesn't hurt to carry a yellow safety vest and hard hat in your car.
And there's always some place else to go.
Thanks. It's good to rant and rave about these things. Gets the adrenaline going. Motivating! Cool

All the Best in the New Year and hope to get down there and do some hunting with you before the end of Feb.
Joe



  
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rockytoprockshop
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Re: Legal rights of being a Rockhound
Reply #3 - Dec 28th, 2017 at 2:31pm
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Scott & Joe:

Yeah there were no posted signs anywhere. Not a single sign and the gravel turnaround area was at the end of the public road thus not on any adjacent property. The ladies house was a good 300 yards and clearly stopped from where we parked the car. I just remember in years past never ever being ran off from road construction areas. Not even approached by anyone! That's why I thought it strange that the law had the right to run you away from something that your tax dollars help to fund. Jeez, what do what get for our tax dollars? I've always been one to respect peoples properties and try to get permission before entering a place and had the belief that if a place isn't posted, especially if its something like road work that's funded with tax dollars then how can that be wrong? Oh well.....you are right Scott, I think allot of it just boils down to being a sign of the times we live in. All people hear about on the news is bad and there really is allot of bad out there but I think allot of folks, especially older folks assume that everyone is up to something and are scared to give you a chance. That woman probably already had us labeled as bad before we stepped out the car. Oh well....I won't be going back there again. At least from reading your comments, I know now that yes others have had similar experiences and it is becoming more common place. What happened to the good ol' days? I remember asking a fellow back some years ago if I could look on his land for crystals. He not only said yes but by the end of the day his wife invited me in for supper, we ate, sat and talked a bit and became good friends! Went back many times and he would just tell me to go on down in the fields. He is dead now and that isn't the story anymore as northerners bought the place, built a $250,000 home on it and planted grass in the field! But you know, we've had folks who unfortunately have left gates open, left behind litter and ignored trespassing signs which has hurt others who try to be honest and do right. I've had many folks tell me that they can't let me look on their land because someone didn't ask permission and left trash behind. It hurts our hobby when this happens. Well...its good hearing from you again guys and I hope that 2018 rock collecting gets better from here on!
  
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Tim4d
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Re: Legal rights of being a Rockhound
Reply #4 - Jan 2nd, 2018 at 2:57pm
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Before smart pads became the thing, I carried a clipboard and dressed the part of a site inspector (khaki's and a decent looking shirt) when initially scouting construction sites.  I reserved the charade for sites where there was a high chance of being seen by residents, business occupants or passerby.  If I saw something worth digging, I'd return in early morning hours.
   I suppose I should look for a broken smart pad to carry nowadays.  Smiley
  
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Re: Legal rights of being a Rockhound
Reply #5 - Jan 2nd, 2018 at 3:02pm
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In last several years construction site security has gone nuts in many places, with more fences and posting.  And surveillance cameras have become cheap and easy to deploy.  Even so, almost nobody monitors cameras or responds to motion detection in real time because it's just too expensive.  The video file is searched after the fact of a theft or vandalism.
  
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Re: Legal rights of being a Rockhound
Reply #6 - Jan 2nd, 2018 at 5:03pm
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Tim,

I worry about the shape that our nation is in today? So much has changed with the economy and really the whole society. I strongly feel that the government (or more likely the elite) have another agenda behind all the recent restrictions that are being placed upon rockhounds digging on national forest. They use the excuse that its to protect the environment or if there is an arrowhead found within 500 feet of a mine they claim the whole area as a historic site. The banning of shovels, picks, and pry bars by calling them "mechanical equipment" is crazy. Just look at the damage that industry, logging and even our own government causes upon the environment and nothing is said! I've been reading more and more about "chem-trails" and it has been pretty much proven that the heavy elements that are being sprayed into our atmosphere are causing damage to the environment as well as the overall health of the American people. But again....nothing said about that. I think that most rockhounds have come to realize that the real agenda behind all these strict new regulations against us is really aimed at control and wealth consolidation. The mega elite who dictate world economies, influence governments, start wars for profit have almost destroyed the middle class and along with it, many of our rights. They don't want anyone to profit or gain wealth except themselves. You go to most gem and mineral shows today and you don't see the crowds of young mineral collectors just starting out in the hobby buying minerals like you once did. Beginning rockhounds who are wanting to build a collection not only have to fight the economy and high cost of good specimens, they also don't have the availability and access to as many collecting sites due to so many restrictions and the overall general attitude of many landowners today. I remember collecting during the late 70's, 80's and even into the 90's and it was different than today. But, people allot older than me back then use to tell me how easy it was to collect minerals before then even. So with every decade, it gets harder I guess but there are allot factors now that are making it worse.
  
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