For American orienteers:
What is the number one endeavor that you'd like OUSA to undertake over the next few years?
Make national league events cheaper.
Make national Lidar data cheaper.
Figure out what works at the local level to get more people orienteering and help clubs begin evidence-based trials.
There was a call for evidence based trials on something that works on the local level. Did any clubs take 'em up on it?
Just out of curiosity--what is the objective for this thread?
to repeat many other ones?
To ask American orienteers what they think OUSA should focus on. Another recent thread asked for a list of ways to improve American orienteering (but specifically not opinions or discussions on which one should get top priority), and a previous thread discussed the cost/benefit of a particular expenditure. OUSA has an AGM coming up; it seemed like an appropriate time to raise the question.
Make US orienteers less cheap.
I am not entirely kidding.
Make American orienteering great again!
Get more people orienteering, and more people orienteering at an elite level.
Provide adequate funding for elite teams so that event organizers can charge a reasonable price, and teams can reimburse their athletes to get them to the events.
Pay for more services, and expect a professional level service in return.
Priority #1---Promote the sport
I would like to see the visibility of orienteering raised with the general public. I don't know how many times I've explained what orienteering is to someone who has never heard of it. If just a fraction of those people actually came to an event, we would have trouble handling them all. Plus I wouldn't have to explain it to the next park ranger I have to get a permit from. Not being in the Olympics is part of this; everyone knows what luge is, even though most will never try it.
The first four words of what acjospe wrote - everything else that would be nice flows from that.
To that end, I'd like to see an OUSA program to actively support clubs that are currently slowly (some rapidly) withering away in terms of start/membership numbers, The late strategic plan, as far as I recall, more or less hoped to raise start numbers through exhortation combined with improved national branding and promotion. In future, I'd hope to see more direct assistance to specific clubs to address whatever limitations are preventing most of them from achieving currently similar annual start/membership numbers to those they achieved during their best few years of the century to date.
The 50th Anniversary Fund Drive addresses small and struggling clubs. The plan is to help clubs get their information out on the web through web sites and other tech help. It also works to get more mappers and to assist in preventing loss of mapped areas and getting new mapped areas through environmental studies that will show we have a small environmental footprint although the studies have to be done by independent sources. We will fund them.
environmental studies that will show we have a small environmental footprint although the studies have to be done by independent sources. We will fund them
Yet another insane waste.
Not a specific focus, but perhaps as a next step, I'd like to see some discussion about challenges OUSA leaders / committees have found most difficult to overcome, what we've tried that has and has not worked, and associated resourcing (cost/savings, hours of work invested, etc).
I appreciate all the discussion and the ideas across the various threads. We may not all agree, but there is some good energy here to harness in helping us move our sport forward!
About the environmental studies, maps have been lost because people don't understand the minimal impact of our sport. Other areas don't want to have orienteering events on them because they are concerned about what might happen to their land. If you can think of a way, without scientific data, to prevent the loss of maps and getting new mapping plans around the people who say it will hurt out property, then please let someone know. Recently, I was told that a permanent course could not be put into a park in NH because of environmental issues. The park also was being lumbered and the original course was going through that area so I redesigned it. Some of the parks people seemed to think orienteering was going to be worse than lumbering.
I'd be really curious how big a problem this is for orienteering, aside from anecdotes.
It would be a big problem if we were not able to access large population centers of current or likely future orienteers because of environmental protestations per se. It would be an inconvenience, with all due respect, if some random county park somewhere has their environmental pants in a bind and no longer allows for orienteering, but others do.
And then there is the presumption that an impartial third party environmental assessment from somewhere with clout lightly less than the EPA is going to cut any mustard whatsoever with the decision makers.
I certainly have heard the tales of woe from some attractive orienteering markets (like the Bay Area) about increased access difficulties, but it is not clear to me that the obstacles were purely environmental inhibitions.
In summary, I question this initiative for two reasons: 1) need to understand the real need--i.e., are there important venues (not random one-offs) at jeopardy for environmental-specific reasons, and 2) on what basis does OUSA think that a relatively small $ sum will be sufficient to produce a report or whatever with sufficient imprimatur to lead to a change in outcome.
Terry Farrah did some work on this a little while back and should be consulted.
There are a number of published studies from Scandinavia on this topic, I believe.
I was given an environment reason for not being able to host team trials where I wanted. But that was mostly because it was the one excuse he could give that I would look like an asshole for arguing with.
But as Barb says, there's no need to reinvent the wheel, many studies have been done in both Scandinavia and Scotland. We were granted access to Culbin after many years of no access, thanks to an excellent long term study in this extremely fragile ecosystem. These studies are definitely applicable to most of the north east.
However, there may be a need for this kind of thing in California, Colorado, for example, where the ecosystems are extremely different.
Having said that, my n of 1 experiment suggests to me that if I'd have sent this guy 20 well controlled unbiased studies as to why we weren't going to damage the area, he'd have simply found another excuse. Strikes me as more of a private ownership vs public ownership kind of problem.
I'd be really curious how big a problem this is for orienteering, aside from anecdotes...
We could commission a study to find out...
The landowner/manager/decision-maker has the authority to change his mind at any time without the need to justify his decision. The environment is just an excuse to make the managers' life easier and divert blame for capricious rule-making. Before launching any studies (or any mapping efforts) the parties involved need to decide to be bound by a common authority. If your club spends time and money on mapping, you should have agreement to use the venue for some number of years in the future.
I agree that spending money on environmental studies won't be very cost-effective. Land managers who are excited about orienteering will work to make it possible. Land managers who are scared of orienteering or events in general or just lazy will come up with any excuse to avoid permitting it. We need to get land managers excited about orienteering, not just convince them that it won't hurt.
I would say that the biggest change we've seen in Los Angeles with permitting has been the institution of more formal processes. It's far more common now for the permitting personnel to be removed from the actual rangers or to be playing middleman. We've got a number of sites where I've found that the actual ranger in charge is perfectly happy with what we do, but the person responsible for permitting seems determined to assert their authority to make us jump through hoops.
When your only power is the power to deny permission, you feel useless if you aren't doin' a bunch of denyin'. Happens all over.
I am well aware of the European studies. I gave a talk at the last convention and did a lot of research. If anyone wants to look at those studies, it is quite easy to look them up. However, "that is Europe and this is a completely different continent." Cost effective, it might not be but when the Trout Brook map, of WCOC was lost, it was a great loss. Other maps have been lost. If you want to give up and not even try, then that is a defeatist attitude. Yes, landowners may just be making excuses but if the first that the landowner of a prospective new map hears is about the small impact, it may start things off on the right foot.
Didn't USOF publish a booklet of testimonials from landowners throughout the country? It's not the same as an impact study, but useful to show that other land managers have positive views of events that have happened. Also, I recall that at one event (WC Final 92?) an impact study was done. (Areas were marked on the ground, and revisited a year later. Maybe compaction and other metrics; I can't recall what. Not sure what university...UNH?) Does anyone else recall anything about it?
At the Canadian Orienteering Championships just two weeks ago they levied a "tax" of CAD$10 on each competitor in the middle distance event to fund a study of the environmental impact of the meet. I don't know if the study terrain included any venues actually used for the event (three of the four events were moved to different venues due to high bear activity in the originally-planned areas).
There is a brief discuss of this levy and study in the second-to-last paragraph here:
And a somewhat longer discussion of the context, including a summary of some previous studies, here:
Peter, I'm talking about Trout Brook. Nothing will persuade the current manager to give us access. Despite the fact orienteering is written in to the land use contract.
Also, I recall that at one event (WC Final 92?) an impact study was done. (Areas were marked on the ground, and revisited a year later. Maybe compaction and other metrics; I can't recall what. Not sure what university...UNH?) Does anyone else recall anything about it?
This has also been done much more recently. I can't remember which event, but I was there, so it was the Northeast and it was within the last 15 years. I'm not sure if the study in that case was being done by OUSA, the club hosting the meet, the venue itself, or an individual. Nor do I know how scientific it was. I just remember that certain areas around controls were being studied for the impact after event.
In my experience, same as others, environmental concerns are just an excuse to deny permission. The real issue is the person in control. We seem to encounter three types of land managers - 1) sure, here's a permit, do whatever you want within the rules 2) you can use the place but you'll have to jump through hoops and we might charge a per person fee or something else that makes it prohibitive 3) no way you can use our property and we won't work with you. Often the only cure for the type 3 and some of the type 2 is to wait for the management to change. (Which seems to happen often enough at some venues, especially state parks. Unfortunately that means it can also change the other way and make things harder for a formerly easy location.)
We have done several studies at the Water Gap. The first time we used the maps in 2000, we had to pay ~$1000 (I think that's the right figure but am going on memory; could probably look it up if anyone cares) to pay for the environmentalist to conduct the study. There was a good bit of rain and there were several elephant trails immediately after the event. However, the damage was deemed minimal and they let us have another event in 2003. This time we did the study - taking lots of before and after pictures at control sites - and the park was happy with the outcome. This might be what Julie remembers but I also seem to recall another event in NE where this was done. We even documented some places where existing trails were being washed out and needed improvements to make sure they didn't blame us and, again, they were satisfied that we did not do any damage and thanked us for the information about the trails. Since then we have not had to do any further studies and we have had no problems getting permission. But, personnel at the park change so you never know what will happen in the future.
So maybe what's needed is to collect existing North American and overseas studies. I think that for some land managers, it's useful self protection to show that they considered environmental impact. Some agencies get sued a lot by environmental groups; the local national forest here was forced recently by lawsuit to close half its forest roads over the next few years. I try to make sure that we're not the group that generates complaints to the land manager.
I completely agree that we have to collect all the studies and have them available for view by anyone who wants to see them. If you have a report, you could send a copy to me and I will start a new folder.
Despite the fact orienteering is written in to the land use contract.
Sounds like solid grounds for legal action...
Do we have David Boies on retainer?
Pretty sure that there was a study at one of the recent UNO meets. My recollection is that it was at the Harris Center (or maybe it was Bear Brook? ). But I also recall that PGoodwin was involved with conducting the study?
I haven't seen any current COC members commenting here, but I know we lost off-trail access in Seattle area parks while Jon and I were still there (2012-13ish?). Not as much impact as in the NE as many Seattle area parks are hard to run off-trail, anyway, but still an impact on the upper-level courses. Not sure if there were any studies done, but Bob Forgrave would know the details if there were.
CascadeOC lost off-trail access to Seattle City Parks, yes, in about that timeframe. I forget when, though, as it hasn't been a big deal honestly. Most of Seattle Parks are wide open enough, or the off-trail is too thick anyway, for it to make a big impact. Many parks really aren't impacted at all, and some just a little bit. Seward Park was probably the biggest loss. It's got an old growth forest and the club has had events there since the very beginning. I don't know of any studies done, and I'm guessing there weren't any.
Another interesting one is Carkeek Park, which we're using for SART next month. The club hasn't used it since 2002, at which point we weren't allowed to use it at all. I didn't know this when I applied for the permit (I moved here in 2005), and apparently the permitting people changed hands and forgot about it. It's obviously trails-only for SART, so the focus of that round will be route choice and hills.
Another recent big loss was St. Edward State Park, where we hosted an annual event every December for about 30 years. One year there was unseasonably good fantastic weather on event day, so there were other park users. They saw us off trail, complained to the parks, and that was it. No more off-trail orienteering there, period. We've moved that event elsewhere.
A similar thing happened around the same timeframe on Mercer Island. People complained. The city didn't prohibit us from coming back, but they effectively did by raising the permitting fees to over $1000 or something.
Another WA state park that's trails only is Bridle Trails, and that's a safety concern because of a bunch of unmarked wells or something. It's an equestrian park, and I think a horse and rider were wandering off trail and fell into a well many years ago, so all off-trail access is restricted here. But other state parks are perfectly fine with us for orienteering and we have a great relationship.
COC also has a wonderful brochure that is aimed at rangers and land managers, explaining the benefits of having orienteering as an activity in their park. Providing something like that to clubs, including references to existing studies, would be much more useful than funding new studies.
Such a USOF booklet existed twenty or thirty years ago. Updating it with new land manager testimonials and with studies would provide references going back forty years, providing evidence that orienteering has decades of low impact history.
One year there was unseasonably good fantastic weather on event day, so there were other park users. They saw us off trail, complained to the parks, and that was it.
Just curious but, what was the nature of the complaint?
I don't remember exactly. It was 5 years ago and I wasn't involved in the conversation. But I seem to remember being told that some "friends of park" users saw us off trail, thought that we shouldn't be off trail because of perceived impact to vegetation and wildlife, and yelled at park management.
"Friends of Park" > orienteering in both population and volunteer time, so it was an easy decision for the park ranger.
When we switched to the the new venue, the club had a few volunteer work parties there to build some bridges so that it wouldn't happen again.
Could COC become a "friend of park"?
Ah, yes, St. Edwards - it's always the parks we have fond memories of that makes the loss seem so painful, isn't it? I miss the Bog Slog! As you noted, Pink Socks, the rest of the parks are mostly thick enough that it isn't a huge impact, glad to hear that remains pretty much the case.
I may still have a copy of the old "Orienteering and Land Use" book. There was talk of updating it maybe 20 years ago, but we never collected enough new testimonials and the effort kind of fizzled. Some of the phrasing in the description of the sport wouldn't pass muster these days - the phrase that comes to mind is "orienteers are loose jointed ...", it was intended to describe the running style of an experienced Orienteer.
I also have quite a few copies of the IOF special environmental issue of Orienteering World (I think that's now at least 10-15 years old, but if anybody wants a copy to show to land managers, let me know and I can send one out.). This issue was intended to showcase orienteering's environmental sensitivity and includes a detailed planning map which shows how sensitive areas are marked out of bounds. It also emphasizes that by far the biggest environmental impact is travel to / from events, while the competition itself has minimal impact.
The best use of those might be to extract testimonials and analyses (with permission from IOF) for a new booklet/PDF, combined with newer studies and references from land managers.
Does the IOF have anything recent we might use?
2016 Canadian Champs will soon have one ;-) We were required to do a study as part of the Middle distance race. It was very expensive, and there were issues around methodology. Hopefully it will be fruitful and show the minimal impact. But it might go the other way. The study was (is) focused on impact on wildlife, as we've already got a study from 2002 showing minimal impact on plants.
One thing that is good here is that this was requested by Alberta Parks. If it shows that the sport has minimal impact it will make it more difficult for Parks to deny access. This project is a result of us working with Parks to establish a long-term plan for holding events in Alberta - with a dream of agreeing to a five-year schedule in advance.
I have done two photo studies, one at the Harris Center for the UNO meet last Fall and one at the Interscholastics in DVOA country when they got snow. Both studies showed little or now damage and nothing that wouldn't repair itself in a few weeks time (or with a rainstorm to settle the "disturbed" leaves). However, there is a fatal flaw in the research, it was done by a person who was president of the organization so it might be said that the study was biased. We need independent studies done by the land owners if we want them to hold a lot of water.
No, we need independent studies published by peer reviewed papers, if people are to take them seriously. Though I remain to be convinced we need the studies, or that they will make any difference to an organization with its mind made up that off trail use should be shunned. They'll just find another excuse to keep us off the land. But providing them with amateur and biased studies will not help our case.
What we really need is more orienteers, not spreading the ones we have around a bunch of random venues out of sight and out of mind.
@AZ: How expensive?
we need independent studies published by peer reviewed papers, if people are to take them seriously...
...providing them with amateur and biased studies will not help our case.
As for whether to do a study at all...
Nothing ventured, nothing gained!
But perhaps a large amount of money lost....
When considering "peer reviewed papers", we must first ask who are these respected "peers"? Does the land manger in question have any respect for the peers who are reviewing and publishing these studies?
I'm not sure - just guessing here...
I think it will cost us around $10,000. About $3,000 for cameras and $7,000 for third party to design the study. I'm not even 50% sure of those numbers - but hopefully it gives an idea.
There are something like 15 motion sensitive cameras in the field - we bought 5 of them. And we felt it important to hire a third party to do the study, for their expertise and experience, and for their impartiality.
We hope to cover some of this cost from a grant, we added a $10/person levy to the entry fee for the COC Middle, and we've dipped into the club coffers for the remaining.
very good point, Kevin. I usually refer Rec Area managers to other Rec Area managers -- those are their peers. I wonder what are the US numbers similar to AZ's Canada numbers above.
Sometimes, it does not really work, like for dunes access. So far the only dune access we got is next to an all-terrain vehicle area.
There were motion sensitive cameras in the Middle Course terrain? I hope they didin't catch my excretion motion during one of the legs.
Yep ;-=) Actually one of the coolest / strangest things happened when I was test running. One of the cameras had been vandalised - which is strange because it was at a control site in "the middle of nowhere". I reported it to Alberta Parks and they sent a picture of a bear vandalising it ;-)
I suppose our best hope is that the bears come back and show up in the cameras right after the event.
What were you using motion sensitive cameras for? This wasn't a before/after/later study?
gather data on the near control micro routes of the racers and the pre and post wildlife I'd imagine. smart. simple.
It is a wildlife study, as Hammer says. Not so much about the plants, but about the impact on animals.
Impact on plants seems way easier to study!
(but we have that from 2002)
Though coaching how people move through controls might also be a good use!
+1 JTorrance's comment. Help us promote the sport. Tools that we can implement to advertise and attract people to meets (ideas on what's worked for other clubs, canned text, aimed at young adults). Help us understand what gets people to come back after a first try at orienteering; 90% have a great time but few become regular attendees. Lesson plans for self-contained trainings we could offer (e.g., 1/2 hour) for orienteers at adv. beginner-intermediate level to help move them to the next level.
Ahh. in the post above is the comment that can get this thread back on track. What can "help us understand what gets people to come back after a first try at orienteering?"
Related to that is "what can help us uinderstand why people don't come back after a first try at orienteering?"
OUSA (and OCan) should study both.
Here ae my top four reasons:
For the second I suspect the top reasons are
1) the beginner course was dumbed down too much for them. They did not get the challenge they were seeking.
2) Nobody paid any attention to them
3) There was no 'sizzle' to the experience - they came, did the course and left - no post race atmosphere which they expect and get from triathlons, ARs and mud runs
4) The next event was too far in the future and too far away.
For the first I suspect the clubs that get them coming back
1) Have greeters at registration to look for newcomers and make them welcome, answer all their questions and give them the skill set necessary to enjoy the orienteering experience.
2) If they newcomer returns from the White Course with a 'That was it??" look then encourage them to try all or part of another course for free, perhaps have therm buddy up with a volunteer to experience a longer leg or two.
3) Follow up with letters or more likely e-mails to thank them for participation and invite them to the next event. and repeat that just before the next event.
4) Do an article about the results of each and every event in your newsletter and on the website and MENTION LOTS OF NAMES from elite down to beginner. I'd like to say that kids like to see their names in print but really we all do. So even if they were just there for a walk in the park mentioning that the Hunter Family got the best time for groups on the Novice course is much more likely to get the Hunter family back to the next event than ignoring their performance. Same goes at the Advanced level.
That's my top four. What are yours? More importantly can clubs adapt their practices to put more sizzle in to their events and post event follow-up?
As the Disney marketing gurus say: "Sell the sizzle; not the steak."
I think that trying to modify what we do for ourselves in the hope of attracting significant new participants is doomed to fail. I think instead we need to change the way we look at the sport - to look at it from a newcomer's perspective. Then we can build something that is attractive for them and that will ideally lead them into the main stream of orienteering.
Here are some things...
1. the map is way to complicated. Right off the bat people are confused and feeling "dumb". Doesn't help that loads of people are intimidated by simple road maps.
2. the courses are completely inappropriate. Sure they can go on a beginner course - which is way too easy and way too short. Or they could go on a course the appropriate length - but that one will be way too difficult and they will fail to complete it and feel "dumb" again.
3. the penalty for not being able to find a control is ridiculous - a DQ. My suggestion - slight mod to the rules so that whoever visits the most controls wins, ties go to fastest person
4. can't go with a buddy - for the social aspect and the safety feeling this is important to allow, but we don't.
5. there's no training or coaching or skills progression - so not much hope for self-study follow-up, so we lose a chance for engagement. Compare to many other sports which have zillions of videos, books, training camps, ...
6. the next event is so very far in the future
7. there is very little recognition for what people accomplish - a follow up email to participants perhaps, linking to online results...
8. we're not on TV. Tough to address, but supporting IOF's WOC live streaming can help develop better TV coverage
We have to look at this from the newcomer's perspective and modify our system to provide people with more of what they want & need.
I think the key points are still gordhun's #4 and AZ's #6 - we need more of everything. More maps, more people, more meets. I often think about how I could make New Haven an active orienteering town, and the first barrier is that there's nothing mapped. We have a ton of beautiful parks, they should all be mapped. The barrier to entry needs to be lowered - ten minutes travel, a simple map, fees to cover map printing only. An event every Wednesday evening in a park - a simple league with scoring, time penalty instead of DQs, all that. A "coaching" pre run, followed by a short race. Then off to the pub. Plenty of advertising for the WCOC/HVO/NEOC meets nearby at the weekend.
I don't really have the time for this, but without maps, it's a total non-starter anyway.
Adding to what gordhun and AZ have said:
1. Some sort of course (multi-week program) where participants can come and improve and also become part of a group and make friends that are also learning the sport.
2. Follow up with the participants after their first event, program, etc. and let them know about upcoming opportunities (as already stated)
3. A welcoming atmosphere pre-race (and post-race) with a person or good clear signage to explain the pre-race and start process.
Also, Becks, I like your time penalty idea - do you have a feel for what would be an appropriate penalty?
without maps, it's a total non-starter
Maybe the issue is simpler maps. Why not an aerial photo (ortho rectified). Or minor modifications to a city or county map of the park...often they are quite detailed, and free. Does it have to be ISOM or ISSOM to achieve weekly simple orienteering?
Because I want to have fun orienteering too, if I am going to run something like that. I can't do that on a non O' map.
Also, if we're going to hook people, they need to be on something resembling an O' map. But you're right, it doesn't need to be national meet standard.
Is a good start!
And I think that is the big problem... Sure, I can list half dozen things that in my opinion would help make life better for newcomers. But who wants to actually do those things? Like Becks, I'm really more motivated to have fun orienteering the old way - running or setting tough courses in challenging terrain (that realistically only about 400 - 500 people in all of north america could do).
I can point to a few towns and cities where orienteering used to have a good foothold but the sport did not grow because the leaders were more interested in their own orienteering and going to out of town events than putting on events for their townsfolk. I don't blame them for that. It is just a fact of life that in a sport like ours we have to take care to grow the volunteer base as we grow the participant base.
Becks there are people on AP that could probably produce you an orienteering map of any park in New Haven in just a few hours.
Once produced the maps still need some local input for field work which happens to be the best way to improve navigation skills.
I'm not volunteering him but Jagge is a genius at this.
You have some parks framing New Haven that look like world class terrain, some nice campusses, too.
Becks - yes name the parks. Pretty slim choice in NH, actually. Perhaps nearby, like Brooksvale?
What about both east rock and west rock?
Brooksvale is too far.
I'm not actually going to do this, I no longer have the energy for such a venture. If anyone else without kids still lived here, perhaps! But you really would map everything. Edgewood, Edgerton, East Rock Woods Park, East Rock itself, Observatory Hill, the bottom end of West Rock. They don't need to be complex maps, they need to be O' maps that you can run a course on.
mass start score O satisfies AZ's points 2-4.
mass start O with mass end O also gives a great post-event atmosphere... That train could be involved...-)
I'm not actually going to do this, I no longer have the energy for such a venture. If anyone else without kids still lived here, perhaps!
I read this and I think, "It can't be impossible for WCOC to recruit a few enthusiastic orienteers among the whole population of the New Haven-Milford Metropolitan Statistical Area, enough to make it conceivable they could create a local O scene (that would in turn feed some participants to farther flung WCOC events)." But apparently it hasn't happened. Something different than what has been done will have to be tried.
ETA: to be clear, I don't think anyone should put a lot of effort into trying to get a local O scene in New Haven off the ground in the near term. I think the focus should be on reinvigorating WCOC to the point that it has significant energy and resources beyond those required to keep holding events on its existing maps. (Admittedly, one of the better ways to attack that problem might well be to map some additional small, beginner friendly parks near CT's larger population centers and hold heavily promoted, beginner-oriented events on them.)
New Haven is really just me now. Perhaps when I'd arrived and we had Boris, Marie and Mike, and kid-less Will and Claire, we could have done something. But by myself, no chance.
Lidar is available for these parks.
Lidar being available doesn't mean a mapper is available, or funding, or people to setup any kind of useful program to use them.
Lidar goes a long way though.
Actually did an East Rock for Becks back in 2010. Also note that NH Parks and Rec Dept have Orienteering/Geocaching as one of their programs.
Would it be possible to install a permanent course using that East Rock map? Then the parks department could manage it. Here in Georgia, the junior ROTC groups use our TRIM courses quite a bit.
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