Guys With Metal Detectors: Heroes Or Pillagers? And, Um, Should We Care?

Robbie Morin of Houston is a man with a cause.

A cause that maybe not so many people care about, but that doesn't matter to him.

Morin wants the world to know that people who use those dish-on-a-stick metal detectors, looking for coins and other treasure on beaches and in parks, are good people, selfless, sometimes aw-shucks heroic, but in the end just like you and me. (If you and me liked to walk around metal-detecting.)

So why, he cries, does Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole ban metal detecting in parks in his district?

"Metal detecting is a pastime for many people of all ages," he writes in an impassioned open letter to Eversole. "We get exercise by bending and stooping, swinging our metal detector back and forth, and being out in the fresh air in park areas is very enjoyable. We do not detect in areas that would prevent the other park users from enjoying their use of the park. "

Not enough?

Morin includes the metal-detectors Code of Ethics ("I WILL use thoughtfulness, consideration, and courtesy at all times") and says detector guys have helped cops, archeologists, and plain ol' people: "We also have, on many occasions have helped other park patrons find their lost keys, jewelry, and many other items. When asked to help find an item, we graciously accept the challenge to find it, and only want the satisfaction of returning the item to the owner with no reward wanted."

So what's with the hate, Eversole?

We asked, and learned that it's a legal matter:

Although there are many benefits of recreational metal detecting, it is my responsibility as a county commissioner to ensure the public adheres to the Antiquities Code of Texas in Precinct 4 parks. Should an existing registered archaeological site within Harris County/Precinct 4 get pillaged, or a potential site be uncovered by amateur archaeologists or metal detectors, the precinct risks legal litigation and other potential pitfalls with the Texas Historical Commission, which is the legal custodian of the Antiquities Code.

Well, he did acknowledge the "many benefits" of "recreational metal detecting." That's something. Not to mention he managed to use the words "recreational" and "metal detecting" together, which is not something we have ever thought of doing.

So that leaves us with two versions of the old guy with white socks and sandals: either a quiet, unassuming hero or a pillager.

We can't, apparently, all just get along.

-- Richard Connelly

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