Rule #1 in the Metal Detecting Code of Ethics is “I will respect private property and will not metal detect without the property owner’s permission.”
Rule #10 in the same Code of Ethics is “I will be an ambassador for the metal detecting hobby.”
These two rules are so closely related, and those who have ignored these in the past have done a lot of damage on how the general public looks at our hobby of metal detecting. I see this same question asked in forums and social platforms on a regular basis; “Where is it legal to metal detect?”.
Kudos to those who ask this question and attempt to arm themselves with this knowledge before heading outdoors to swing their coil. To answer this question, it does take some research and diligence on your part. Every state and even city government has their own set of rules about where you are allowed (or not allowed) to detect. It is your responsibility to get this question answered, follow the code of ethics, and do your part for bettering the way that people look at our great hobby.
About the only right answer to this question is that “it is legal to metal detect on private property with the consent and permission of the owner”.
Outside of that, the lines grey, the rules vary from place to place, and what is legal for a person in one state may not be legal for another.
In my home state of Kentucky for example, metal detecting is not allowed in any state parks. If you check the laws in my home city of Louisville, you may be surprised to find out that metal detecting is not allowed in any of the 120 Louisville Metro Parks or the 14,000 acres that these parks cover. I certainly was when I got into detecting. The Louisville Government parks website has the rules posted, and they state very clearly that “The operation of metal detectors is prohibited”. Head a short drive outside of Louisville though, and many of the neighboring cities and towns do not impose this ordinance.
You need to do your research and due diligence. If you want to metal detect in city or state parks, then check the websites for the city and state parks departments. They will all typically have Park Rules posted. If they don’t, then you can obtain contact information from the websites and call to ask.
What about school grounds? Is it legal to detect there? Some people you talk to say yes, and others say no. I can guarantee you that private schools are private property, and you should not attempt to detect there without permission. Many people say that public schools are public property and you can detect there all you like. Well, the parks are public property, but here in the city of Louisville we are not allowed to metal detect in them. So take this into consideration and think about checking with the public school board in your area.
What about the lakes, creeks, and streams in your area? There are some great detecting opportunities in an around water. Again, the answers are going to vary from place to place. Some streams have public easements for a certain distance around them. Others are owned by the land owner whose land the stream passes through. It is always best to ask permission, but the Internet can be your friend in helping you to research the laws in your area.
So to sum this up, always make sure that you obey rule number 1 in the code of ethics. Respect private property and make sure you have permission. You will be surprised at how easy it is to get permission if you can just work up the nerve to ask. Obeying rule number 1 will help you to obey rule number 10… Be an ambassador to the hobby of metal detecting. Trespassing on private property to metal detect does a lot of damage to the image of this great hobby. By being an ambassador to the hobby of metal detecting, you can help to ensure this pass time continues to thrive for future generations.
(Image Credit to 7-how-7 – Licensed via Creative Commons with Attribution)