|John Boswell, treasurer of the Franklin County Grotto,|
crawls through a tight space in Persistence Cave in Williamson.
The convention, the first in Pennsylvania in recent history, will be Aug. 4-10 at Shippensburg University. Typically, the society’s conventions attract cavers from across the United States, as well as from Eastern Europe.
Randy Hurst, public relations chairman for the event, said nearly 1,300 people attended the 2012 convention in Lewisburg, W.Va.
“That area has some of the biggest caves in the country,” Hurst said. “They have the same limestone we have in Pennsylvania, but it’s thicker — so the caves can get really huge.”
Hurst said society conventions are held at different sites each year, and despite this area’s caves being smaller than those in other parts of the country, Shippensburg has plenty to offer.
“Pennsylvania does have caves, just not the huge ones like at Luray, where a room could be 100-feet high,” Hurst said.
Patrick Minnick, secretary of the Franklin County Grotto of the society, agrees.
“Pennsylvania is not without caves,” he said. “Caves in Pennsylvania tend to be a little smaller — (but) Pennsylvania has attractive and beautiful caves.”
Minnick said cave temperatures in Pennsylvania usually range from 52-54 degrees with humidity levels at nearly 100 percent.
“It tends to be muddy,” he said.
Activities at the 2013 convention will include trips to Peiper’s and Carneige caves.
“They are both well-known caves that have a lot of traffic,” Minnick said.
Carneige Cave in Southampton Township is unique because it must be accessed through a tunnel.
“When they built Interstate 81, they were going to blast it shut,” Hurst said. “The York Grotto petitioned PennDOT to save it, not only for cavers, but also because bats live in there, and that was natural habitat for them.”
A culvert was built under the highway to save the cave.
“You have to crawl under the interstate to get into the cave,” Hurst said.
The convention’s agenda also includes trips to other area caves and sessions on a variety of topics, and Hurst is working to arrange side trips to nearby attractions, such as Gettysburg.
“We’ll have 1,000 people here, and we’ll need things for them to do,” he said. “Sometimes, people stay (longer) and make it a vacation. They bring the whole family.”
With 1,000 visitors spending a week in Shippensburg, Hurst said he believes the convention will be a real plus for the local economy.
“Lots of money will be spent,” he said. “People will be coming to town during a week when school is out. It’s a great opportunity for local businesses.”
Convention activities are open only to cavers who have registered. To register for the conference, or for more information on caving, visit www.caves.org.
The website says the society has more than 10,000 members and 250 grottoes.
Minnick said the three most important things to remember when caving are safety (having the proper gear), conservation (not destroying any cave formations) and land owner relations (because most caves in Pennsylvania are on private property).
Source: The Sentinel