O'Fallon Patch's April 16 story about a new ordinance regulating where hobbyist metal detectors could conduct their treasure hunting in O'Fallon parks and requiring items to be turned over to the owner—the City of O'Fallon—hit a nerve.
But it prompted a promise by an O'Fallon Councilman to look at changes.
READ MORE: O'Fallon Metal Detector Hobbyists Restricted; Must Turn Over Finds
Most of the comments on the story related to having to turn over the finds:
- Chris Bethmann: Wow! Way to focus on the serious issues city! How dare somebody dig up a lost forever object and make 20$ let that retired guy with a hobby do a few months in county lock up! Another perfect demonstration that NOBODY will mess with o'fallon
- Lightnin' Marcus: Some moron metal detector guy probably left holes in a park somewhere so the city council overreacted as elected officials so often do. People in government just seem to feel a compulsion to pass laws to justify their worth . . .
- Igor Kratz: I metal detect in the parks in the area. 90% of what I pick up is beer cans, beer bottles and the tiny bags that are used for marijuana and crystal meth. Maybe you should be more focused on the serious issues that these are evidence of and LEAVE US ALONE.
PS: Please let me know where to deliver all of this trash, since you want to claim it as your own.
- RyanC: So rather than enforce existing laws and rules that prohibit messing up the park they have to pass new, unenforceable ones, that restrict the rights of law abiding citizens?
Also, the metal detecting hobbyist usually average $1-2 an hour in change, remove and discard trash, nails, broken bottles, and drug needles. Lost jewelry is returned if the owner can be identified, but in a park one typically has to dig and recover 500-1000 pieces of aluminium trash per ring. Anything we find has been earned several times over. If more people knew this there would be less public backlash and jealously.
A funny thing happens when authorities try to confiscate finds, mysteriously things stop being found.
Councilman Jim Pepper responded to the comments:
I, along with Councilman Schwentker, tried to table this bill so it could be amended so as not to infringe on anyone's activities when conducted within reason. This was a bad bill from the beginning, not thought through nor consideration given to the hobbyists to testify prior to bringing this forward.
Unfortunately, there are some individuals that have left areas a mess when "treasure" hunting. As a result, a knee jerk reaction happned and what I consider a BAD bill was brought forward that punishes the good people.
While state law dictates that all property found belongs to the city, common sense says that if I lost a ring in one of the parks, I have NOT relinquished ownership. But under the current ordinance, I could not go back with a detector to try and recover. BAD,BAD LAW, might I even say arrogant and stupid?
At the next meeting I hope the Council comes to its sense and reconsiders the changes being brought forward.
I had to vote yes on it so I could do a motion to reconsider
Then Pepper offered a new bill:
I am going to try and change the ordinance to make it more sensible as follows:
I. Metal Detecting. The City’s parks and all of its property are owned for the general good of the City’s residents. Recreational metal detecting is not permitted within restricted areas of the parks without prior permission of the City and may only be carried on elsewhere on park property if conducted in such a way as to protect the people’s property.
II. Although the City's parks are pubic property and all that is found technically belongs to the City, non-artifact items such as coins (see Federal ARPA Law of 1979) do not apply and do not need to be returned to the city of O'Fallon.
III. Any items found in city parks that may be deemed as historically significant, shall be turned in to the City of O'Fallon Historic Preservation Commission for review. If the item is deemed to be historically significant, the Historic Preservation Commission may present the item to local museums or historical societies. If the item is not deemed to be historically significant and there is no interest from the museums, the item is to be returned to the person who found the item.