Images courtesy of The Bee News.
Leaders at Mohave County Parks found an unconventional way to encourage their community to experience the landscape of the Hualapai Mountain Park by creating their first Sasquatch Hunt.
The first-time event was held on April 30. Jeremy Palmer, the park superintendent, said they saw a positive turnout from the community in the form of 120 registrants, 50 spectators and eight event sponsors.
The idea for the hunt came after staff encountered a string of missing and lost hikers on the Arizona park’s trail system.
“We were brainstorming ways to get more people out and familiar with the trails and open space,” said Palmer. “We talked about an archeological scavenger hunt. That idea evolved when jokingly the scavenger hunt changed from artifacts to a well-known and trendy beast. We came back from the field and pitched the idea to our park administrator who was on-board immediately. We developed a program plan and accelerated towards implementation very quickly.”
While a smaller Littlefoot Hunt was made available to children, the main Sasquatch Hunt lasted approximately three hours. The primary hunt covered up to five miles of trails. The Hualapai Mountain Park is the Mohave County Parks’ regional facility spanning a total of 2,200 acres.
“Hunters” were provided with a field guide educating them on signs of a Sasquatch and documentation of recent Sasquatch sightings and “evidence.” They were further educated by park police in a short pre-event briefing on outdoor survivalist skills and situational awareness.
Palmer said with all of this information in hand, they were then turned loose onto the trails and grounds of the park. While on their hunt, first-hand witnesses — park staff, event volunteers, etc. — helped point participants in the direction of the Sasquatch.
“Props, footprints and other signs of the Sasquatch were constructed or planted in locations corresponding with the field guide to help participants,” said Palmer. “Finally, we had costumed volunteers running around the forest in Sasquatch suits playing an epic game of hide and seek with the event participants.”
Once they found the Sasquatch, they received a token sent back to basecamp where they were given nutrition packets and other event swag. The first three participants to find the Sasquatch and return were given a trophy encouraging friendly competition.
Since the spring, Palmer said they have seen a positive response from the public. In fact, they are seeing a large response from many individuals who are disappointed they didn’t attend the hunt.
“There have been many positive outcomes from this event including a reduction of lost/missing hikers and some increased recognition/ notoriety as an agency which has historically been more focused on facility management and passive recreational programs,” said Palmer. “We have recently been made aware we are being awarded the Best Program/Event by the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association.”
Also, Palmer added the community is now more comfortable around the park. So, the hunt will be their signature event of the spring rounding out their yearly calendar. However, he reassured such a successful event would not be possible without a safe space available for staff.
“Unique and creative solutions come from unique challenges,” said Palmer. “Our team has regular formal and informal communications where we discuss all elements of our facility and business. The hunt was conceived during a casual and jovial discussion about some of our challenges. We were not trying to come up with the best idea for an event. We were discussing some troubling feedback and trends related to our trails.”
Palmer advised for other community rec organizations to follow in creating this type of environment. Doing so will then create a space to develop efficient programs.
“The event’s concept and final plan was strengthened after every meeting and discussion I had,” he said. “Our final program plan was a 12-page document I shared openly with partners, management, sponsors and more. The plan demonstrated a thought-out event and instilled confidence which led to larger donations, more ideas and overall excitement.”
With sponsors and vendors reporting excitement from their participation, he said they will be bringing the hunt back in spring of 2023.
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