Permanent orienteering courses are an ideal introduction to orienteering and can be used for training purposes when local events are not available. The game's objective is to locate checkpoints on a course. The challenge comes from not knowing their locations ahead of time and the test is determining the best route between them. The fun, of course, is the satisfaction of finding all the checkpoints you set out to visit!
A permanent O course contains checkpoints or control locations (sometimes called "controls") designated on a map and set up within a park, using one of several types of permanent marker (some parks remove markers in the winter). The marker indicates that the user has found the correct site marked on their orienteering map. The image at left shows one type of permanent marker, which may be affixed to a tree or post.
City parks may choose to have no permanent markers, but can design courses requiring the user to answer questions based on some item or feature located at the control sites. You can purchase a map showing locations of the checkpoints for a nominal fee, either from the park itself or from the local orienteering club. The map will describe the type of marker used. Typically, checkpoints are selected and courses designed in consultation with a local orienteering club to provide varying levels of navigational difficulty. The user may then follow a designated course, or choose to visit any checkpoints s/he wishes to practice navigation in an unfamiliar area.
Listed below are links to clubs with permanent O courses as well as some independent organizations with these courses.
Plan to arrive at the park equipped with sturdy shoes that you don't mind getting muddy. If you'd like to visit controls located off-trail you might also want to wear long pants or gaiters to protect your legs. If you have one, take a compass to help you keep your map oriented correctly, though you most likely will not need one for a beginner-level course.
SAFETY NOTE: On the remote chance that you become hopelessly "disoriented," don't panic — use your compass to follow the safety bearing given to return to a main road or other familiar location.
The optimal strategy for setting up a permanent course is not to think in terms of a specific point-to-point course, such as White, but to place a large number of control points, from which a specific set can be used for given day's activity. There could be many combinations that would make up a White course, and other combinations that would make up more advanced courses. If the course gets a lot of activity, a future project could be to move them to new locations. This not only presents new possible combinations, but also reduces the impact around the control points.
As for markers, there are simple small markers, either aluminum or plastic, that can be nailed to a tree or, with more work and investment, a post. Markers on a tree can be removed easily and moved to a new location.
Most of our permanent courses have a "white" level course long enough to be used for scouts to meet their 1-mile merit badge requirement. This tends to be one of the more frequent uses. Additionally, they have some intermediate / advanced controls which can be visited in any order to create a variety of training activities (although there may be a suggested yellow or orange level order).
One of the big concerns of land managers is for markers that they do not have to mow around or maintain, so consider planning placements that do not interfere with mowing, and marker types that are durable and resistant to weather and vandalism.
"Permanent" courses should not be permanent! Once enough people have visited a location, a path is worn to the control site, making it no challenge at all, and damaging the forest envirionment. So ideally the map should be changed seasonally. That was the original intention of the TRIM system. Think of the set of controls as a planted garden that needs to be tended. I named one set after the members of our club. Maybe I should have asked each of those people to personally tend their marker - many of them have been pulled up out of the sandy soil or shot by hunters.
One solution, as in ... Park is to put out a large number of controls which you can then divide up into maps of increasing difficulty and length. The Park has divided its maps up by odd and even numbers. In even-numbered years you can check out an even-numbered map and in odd-numbered years you can check out an odd-numbered map. There are few if any trails. To do the larger number of controls, it would be nice if the club helped and a number of Scouts took on such a project over the years, building on what was done before. Having the club work with the park brings nice returns when you wish to stage a meet (unless of course you have too much turnover in park personnel).
last updated 10 January 2015