THE ANATOMY OF A PARKWAY STRIP
With special thanks to Lowjiber (John) for his editing and wordsmithing skills.
If you take a walk in the older part of your town, you will most likely see the same surroundings that would be seen in most towns across the United States. While the age of the neighborhoods may vary, they all seem to have one thing in common. You know what I am talking about, that narrow strip of grass that lays between the sidewalk and the curb at the edge of the street. It has been there for years and years, and over it has passed generations of people coming and going from their houses and/or businesses. Their mode of transportation has changed over the years as well. Horseback and carriages gave way to early automobiles and then to mass transportation. The trolley car, and then the bus, all dropped off and picked up their passengers in these little grass and dirt areas at the edge of the road. Now, most of the curbside is dedicated to parking for modern day cars. In most cases that little grass strip has seen the change of time all around it. Oh sure, trees and shrubs have been planted and sprinkler systems installed, but for the most part this area is surprisingly undisturbed. Along with its wonderful history, just below the surface there is much more than meets the eye. This little area also holds a wealth of great old coins. You will also find many modern treasures as well...rings, jewelry and, of course, the ever-present clad coin. What I hope to provide in this article are some basic guidelines for metal detecting these areas. Learning good technique, having a keen eye, and showing proper etiquette will all play important roles in being successful in your quest for urban treasure. Now, let's venture out together and learn a little bit more about - The Anatomy Of A Parkway Strip
Found commonly in older residential neighborhoods and commercial areas, parkway strips are often property of the city, or on city easement. It is very important that you have a good understanding of local laws and property boundaries before going out for a hunt. When in doubt always talk with the adjacent property owners and/or city officials to get proper permission to hunt. Even after obtaining the right permission, there are things you can do to make your hunt less intrusive and more acceptable in the public eye. The following is a list of practices that I commonly do when hunting these areas. While they may not all be applicable to your situation, it is always worth going through this little checklist in your head.
What I mean by visibility is how much are you going to stick out? Swinging your detector on a very busy commercial area city sidewalk is going to make you a target of overly concerned citizens and curious onlookers. In a situation like this I like to use what I call my "Sunday Morning Sidewalk" approach. What this basically means is I save these areas for a weekend hunt early in the morning. Quite often these business areas take on an eerie calmness on the weekends, and more specifically in the morning hours. Conversely, this approach is not well suited, and would be a bad idea, for some residential areas. People are home enjoying their morning coffee, reading the paper, and sitting on the porch. Think about who is going to be watching you and how they may react.
2) What activity is going on in the area?
This normally busy sidewalk is quiet and peaceful come sunday morning.
If someone were having a yard sale it would obviously not be an appropriate time for you to hunt this area. There are some less obvious things that also are important to take notice of. Here are a few that I watch for. Are there children playing in the yard or parkway? Never approach these areas if this is the case. While the children will probably get a kick out of your hunt, I assure you it will raise concern in the parent or caregiver just inside the house. Any high level of traffic in an area means something is going on, an open house, a party, or perhaps a family gathering. Whatever the case, be considerate, polite, and conscious of your surroundings.
3) Leave the area better than you found it.
I always take a trash bag with me. I know this sounds like a hassle, but it takes very little time to walk your potential hunting area and pick up surface trash. Not only will this make it easier to hunt, it will show that you have concern for what the area looks like. This can be a daunting task in some of the rental areas of town. Trust me, no one will ever complain about you picking up trash. If you follow up with a metal detecting hunt, then you have just shed positive light on our hobby and people will appreciate the gesture. Look back on the area you have just hunted, does it look better than you found it?
Having other items surrounding your digger helps make it less alarming to law enforcement and onlookers.
Yes, it is important how you look; what type of tools you are carrying, and how you behave when approached by the public or nearby landowner. I am not saying you should wear a tie and jacket, but start your hunts clean and neat. It's inevitable that you will end up dirty and muddy, but when people look at you they often make judgments based solely on your appearance. Use this behavior to your advantage. Keep your digging tools simple and obvious. Do not take an old hunting knife strapped to your side. Even though they make good diggers, this is a bad idea. I know a fellow detectorist who found himself surrounded by police for just that reason. He openly explained what he was doing, and the police advised him that when he is within so many feet of a school, it was against the law. They said if he would put the knife in his vehicle he could continue his hunt. Lesson learned. Keep the diggers small. While a relic shovel may be easier to dig with, onlookers will see it as tearing up the ground. I use a Lesche digger and always put a brass coin probe in the sheath with it. Not only is it a good tool to have along, but also the brass probe helps distinguish the Lesche from a knife.
4) Meeting the public.
Sometimes sharing the hunt with a nearby landowner can lead to permission to hunt private property.
Property owners and others traveling down the sidewalk will approach you on a regular basis. When approached, make good eye contact, be pleasant and smile. Be open and energetic about what you are doing. "I am looking for old coins and enjoying the beautiful old houses!" This is the common response I deliver most of the time. When asked if I am finding anything my reply is usually indirect, but friendly. "Well, it's kind of like fishing. It's not always about catching fish, but I get a few old wheat pennies" is my favorite response. Regardless of what you decide to say, be polite and friendly. I have never had a confrontation with a nearby landowner. If you do your homework and knock on doors you should be able to avoid this situation as well. Quite often a simple knock on the door will lead to a chance to hunt the main property as well. I remember one time I was hunting a parkway in front of duplex. A car pulled up, and out came three small children and what I presumed where the grandparents. The older gentleman approached me and inquired if I was finding anything. He was somewhat stern in his demeanor, so I chose a very direct approach. I opened my keeper pouch and grabbed two Mercury dimes I had found, and reached out and placed them in his hand. I said to him with a wink and a smile, "I think you dropped these the other day." He looked at the old dimes and a big smile crossed his face. He yelled at his wife to come over and look. The kids excitedly ran over as well. He commented, "They don't make money like this any more." To make a long story short, I ended up getting to hunt the private yard property as well. Above all, do not sneak around hunting theses areas. When in doubt...don't swing!