As soon as Pokemon Go went live, Pratt Beach in Rogers Park became a hotspot for players bent on catching them all.
But in addition to being populated by a variety of Pokemon in the smartphone-based augmented reality game, Pratt Beach is home to endangered wildlife. And according to Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy, some players haven’t been respectful of park boundaries, traipsing off-limits areas to pursue Pokemon.
“If you go out to Pratt Beach on any given night, there are dozens if not hundreds of people out there having fun and playing the game out in a gorgeous part of our city,” said Cassidy. “There are five Pokestops in that area, which is part of what makes it so popular. But one of them is smack-dab in the middle of a dunes restoration site.”
Pokestops act as collection points and tend to attract large amounts of players to a specific area.
“I have dozens of pictures of people playing Pokemon Go with one hand and picking up litter with the other,” Cassidy said. “But when a rare pokemon appears in the middle of that dune you can have hundreds of people rushing like a horde of zombies toward it and trampling these grasses and, at certain points of the year, trampling nests.”
Cassidy — who is a level 17 player with Team Valor herself — said she loves that the game is getting people into parks across Chicago, but requests from residents and the Chicago Park District to have certain sites removed from play haven’t been met with much help from Pokemon Go developer Niantic.
After determining the latitude and longitude of the site her constituents wanted removed submitting a variety of other information to Niantic, the only response she’s been made aware of is an email from the developer saying there are no Pokestops at the site.
“Between the challenging of finding out how to make a request and the complete lack of response from the company, we came to believe there had to be a better way,” Cassidy said. “The property owner or custodian should have the option in a user-friendly and timely way to have Pokestops removed.”
She said the new bill — nicknamed “Pidgey’s Law” after a winged Pokemon — would fine developers for each day they fail to remove a requested site from play.
Cassidy pointed to widely publicized stories about Holocaust Museums across the country making requests to have their locations removed from the game and having Niantic comply in fairly short order.
“But it shouldn’t take national news for that to happen,” Cassidy said. “If areas of public and private property are included in these augmented reality games it’s incumbent on the developers to create a process by which they can be notified that perhaps they’ve made a mistake. There’s real damage being done here.”