Landowner Relations - Some Thoughts

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Landowner Relations - Some Thoughts

Postby CaverScott » Nov 9, 2007 8:40 am

This was posed from another thread, so I thought this topic might be an interesting item on its own:

KeyserSoze wrote:
Are cave owners generally pretty nice about cavers wanting to go on their property?


It honestly depends on their experiences and how you approach them.

Here are some basics I have learned over the years (Keep in mind that I caved in the Midwest from 81 - 94 and TAG from 94 to current. Caving out west and with Public Land Managers are a totally different venue.):

1) Don't EXPECT to be given access. They own it. If they say no, ultimately thank them politely and leave.
2) Don't stand too close the doors: After you knock, back away and maybe back down the stairs. This gives any female or elderly person that come to the door a better feeling of safety.
3) Pet the animals
4) Tell them your name right off.... "Hi, My name is XXXX XXXX and I am from (City name). I would like to know if it would be acceptable for us....
5) No more than two cavers should be at the door. Keep the herd in the car/trucks.
6) No radio, no cd's, no noise from the other cars.

This may help or not. I can tell you that over the many years I have approached 100's of landowners, I have never had a really bad experience. Even with the big NO TRESSPASSING SIGNS and the DOBERMANS tied up on the front porch.

A few times a landowner who started with "NO" changed his mind on the condition I "didn't tell" my friends. One landowner who started with "NO WAY" even INSISTED we visit his cave but that is another story.
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Postby graveleye » Nov 9, 2007 9:12 am

Great thread Scott!

Stating your name and where you're from is VERY important. This is somewhat psychological, but basically it tells the landowner that you are who you are and have nothing to hide. Typically someone who is up to no good will be reluctant to give their name out - something anyone can sense.

I told my story a while back of having a landowner (in this case, he was a real-estate broker) sneak up on me when we were on some property. Rather than making the guy feel like he needed to get the information out of me, I offered it up front. AND this dude was armed to the teeth and it wasn't hunting season. The way I introduced myself really turned the tables around and within a couple of minutes the guy was looking at me as a potential customer rather than a trespassing caver. (Yes, we were trespassing - but it wasn't obvious as this was not a farm or a homestead, but a fairly developed commercial area and there were no doors to knock on to ask first)

One of the keys is just good people skills. Be on your best. Smile, offer a handshake. Comment on the weather. Even if you're told no, or you start getting the feeling you're going told no, still sincerely wish them a wonderful day, and apologize for disturbing them. You would be surprised how simple acts of kindness can disarm the most hostile of people.
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Re: Landowner Relations - Some Thoughts

Postby mgmills » Nov 9, 2007 9:22 am

CaverScott wrote:
1) Don't EXPECT to be given access. They own it. If they say no, ultimately thank them politely and leave.
2) Don't stand too close the doors: After you knock, back away and maybe back down the stairs. This gives any female or elderly person that come to the door a better feeling of safety.
3) Pet the animals
4) Tell them your name right off.... "Hi, My name is XXXX XXXX and I am from (City name). I would like to know if it would be acceptable for us....
5) No more than two cavers should be at the door. Keep the herd in the car/trucks.
6) No radio, no cd's, no noise from the other cars.



One other thing i would add. Don't go to the door looking "scuzzy" or all decked out for caving with your knee pads on and helmet hanging on your belt. Wear clean clothing and be neat . . . no slogans on the "tee shirt that might be offensive. Regardless of what you say your appearance is the "first impression" and it can make a difference.
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Postby Scott McCrea » Nov 9, 2007 9:28 am

I have also knocked on quite a few doors. I was mentored by an older caver, whom everyone liked. Well, just about everyone. There was that one we were literally pushed off a porch and the other time he said, "I'm going to get my gun. If you are still here, I'll kill you." We left.

Anyway, what I have learned so far,

1. Smile.
2. Dress to unimpress. Nothing flashy or too expensive.
3. Drop names. Tell them, "Mr. Cowpasture, in the next holler over, said you might have a cave on your property."
4. Tell them what time you will leave and stick to it.
5. Take pictures and give them copies.
6. Get an email address or phone number so you can notify first for next time.
7. Be ready to chat. You might even need to go in, sit down and drink coffee/tea/coco. One lady asked me and buddy if "we like to party?" Meaning, would we like to smoke a bowl with her. We said no thanks.
8. Don't burn bridges, be polite no matter what.

Watching a master or on the job experience is the best way to learn landowner relations.
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Postby wendy » Nov 9, 2007 9:31 am

So far only guys have offered up suggestions, all of which have been good, but come across even better when you have a female caver be the person to make contact with a potential land owner. We have a way of smoozing with folks, or at least I do.
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Good Articles

Postby Andy » Nov 9, 2007 9:59 am

Here are a couple of good articles on the subject of cave landowner relations:

Landowner Relations Starts with a Relationship
by Ron Fulcher
http://www.dugcaves.com/landowner/fulcher_article.htm

Don't Kill The Cow
by Debbie Moore
http://www.dugcaves.com/landowner/moore_article.htm

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Postby George Dasher » Nov 9, 2007 12:23 pm

I've also discovered that interrupting the landowner while he is painting his house is a REALLY bad idea.
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Postby George Dasher » Nov 9, 2007 12:25 pm

No more than two or three at the house is a very good thing.

And women cavers wearing granny glasses can be very helpful.
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Postby KeyserSoze » Nov 9, 2007 12:40 pm

Do you have any tips for how to change a land owner's mind if he does say No at first? Would you reply with "why?" Or just go into something else?

One thing I found is that in Kentucky and in Indiana, I could assure that cave owners cannot be held liable for persons entering their cave. The law states that very clearly. The only problem is that the land owner might not believe it though.
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Postby CaverScott » Nov 9, 2007 2:12 pm

KeyserSoze wrote:Do you have any tips for how to change a land owner's mind if he does say No at first? Would you reply with "why?" Or just go into something else?

One thing I found is that in Kentucky and in Indiana, I could assure that cave owners cannot be held liable for persons entering their cave. The law states that very clearly. The only problem is that the land owner might not believe it though.


I would not question them as to why... most seem to want to offer an explanation anyway.

I often carry blank Liability Releases which helps every so often.

In Indiana, I would always extra copies of the Indiana Cave Protection law which clearly states the owner is not liable (as long as they don't charge any money).
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Postby Wormster » Nov 9, 2007 5:34 pm

Went on a trip last weekend:

First off we had to get the key from the club,
next we had to drive (about 3 -4 miles to the location).
Then we knocked on the door of the house where we wanted to go, a sweet little old lady came out.
We asked "Can we go down the hole in your garden?" "oh yes, I don't know why you want to though." she replied, "There's 2 of your lot there already."
We walked back to our vehicles and gathered our kit together and returned to the portal and kitted up.
When we'd finished and locked the portal, de-kitted and were on the way back to our vehicles, said little old lady came out with her little dog on its lead and asked; "Did you all have a good time??" to which we replied "Yes, thank you very much."

A direct, honest, open approach will usually "open doors" to you.
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Postby NZcaver » Nov 9, 2007 5:54 pm

Ah yes, the task can appear a bit less daunting when the locals are sweet little old ladies rather than paranoid gun-toting scary folks. :wink:

But... a cave landowner is a cave landowner. A little respect and politeness can go a long way - especially since we cavers are the visitors, and most of us aren't particularly "normal-looking" ourselves.
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Postby wyandottecaver » Nov 9, 2007 6:10 pm

the above advice is all good

first is my golden rule of landowners:
there are over 3000 caves within 1.5 hrs drive of me just in Indiana, so no one cave is worth angering a landowner over.

many good caves have been closed by cavers who didn't take no for an answer or didn't ask to begin with. some caves have been physically destroyed just to stop cavers from trespassing! ask 1st and no means no. hopefully they will change their mind eventually.

in general you'll get better responses if you have an older person doing the talking and some cute youngster in the background :)

I often cheat. I get a current plat book, look the landowner up on the internet or phonebook, and call. (NOT during dinner) I usually start by introducing myself, explaining my interest in caves, and asking if there is a convenient time for the landowner when I might visit. If it doesn't sound like your on a mission to get in their cave that minute they often feel a little more comfortable.
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Postby tncaver » Nov 9, 2007 8:42 pm

Asking in person is always the best. Sometimes even that doesn't
work. Go somewhere else if it doesn't work.
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Postby barcelonacvr » Nov 9, 2007 9:25 pm

As most caves in Ontario are on Private property I have to negotiate access frequently for existing caves and new digs.The last cave system I found ended up with 32 property owners in total I had to negotiate with -no problems what so ever.

My main approach is creating a comprehensive "newsletter" that shows the owner what/where and why in a clear and precise manner.I generally take a small amount of their time initially and leave the information package with time to peruse and decide.This approach has worked well on over 100 properties to date so I stick with it.I have only had 1 owner say no and he had a lot of problems with hunters/poachers and was totally not open to ANYONE being in his property.There are a lot of great suggestions made by others that go along with my approach as well.

I find it important to reassure the owners that at ALL times they are in control of what happens and when.They seem to feel better knowing people will not just indiscriminately be wandering onto their property etc and usually a short hello visit each time keeps them in the loop and happy.I also always give the owners any maps and photos I may produce and keep them in the scheme of things entirely.

We have cleaned up large areas near caves and offered general help to some landowners as they have bent over backwards for us,it is the least we can do.I have SQS membership and it encompasses a limited type of liability insurance that possibly can be applied to the property owner.This has helped with some people wavering on the edge.I can understand people being concerned about lawsuits and in reality allowing someone in a cave on their property has little benefit for them.The coverage can ease their mind enough to make it worthwhile.


In the end a lot of people in my clubs find it funny I can gain so much access seeing as I am heavily tattooed (read -not coverable) and I have large metal tunnels in my ears.I am simply honest and straightforward with the people and I have hod no problems creating some type of connection with all the landowners.Perhaps it is the 20 yrs I worked as a plumber that taught me how to deal with a lot of different people.I like to think it is because I do not present a fake front and simply show respect and gratitude.
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