Giant’s Stairs, a popular destination for hikers and sightseers on Bailey Island, may attract more geology enthusiasts with its designation as an “EarthCache” site.

The Harpswell Board of Selectmen approved the designation on Thursday, July 7, in response to a request from EarthCache.
EarthCache is a branch of geocaching, a treasure-hunting activity in which devotees use GPS to find hidden containers and exchange items. But EarthCache takes users to unique geologic sites, instead of containers. EarthCache is a program of the Geological Society of America.

Unlike geocaching, there is no physical object on the site. Instead, visitors undertake an educational task to “expand their own knowledge” and “prove that they visited the site,” according to the EarthCache website. There are more than 28,500 EarthCache sites around the world.

The request to add an EarthCache site at Giant’s Stairs, named for its rock formations, came before the Town Lands Committee in February. After initial concern that the designation would increase traffic to the property, the committee concluded that it would have limited impact.

“We went back and forth a good bit and it just seemed like this was a pretty specialized use that would not increase the traffic significantly,” committee co-Chair Ken Oehmig said.

“Other publicity seems to be much more impactful than this would be,” Oehmig added.

The committee recommended that the select board approve the request, given that “it will be non-intrusive and will attract few additional visitors,” according to the minutes of the February meeting.

EarthCache sites exist across Maine, including in popular destinations like Acadia National Park and Baxter State Park, as well as lesser-known areas.