State rep. introduces bill to protect parks from Pokemon Go

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016
State reps push legislation to protect sites from Pokemon Go
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Legislators in Illinois have introduced a law to protect sensitive sites withe endangered animals and plants from people playing Pokemon Go.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An Illinois state representative has introduced legislation to protect parks and sensitive properties from Pokemon Go players.

Supporters of the legislation said they have no problem with people playing the game, but said they want to preserve the sensitive habitats in places like Loyola Dunes Restoration site in the city's Roger's Park neighborhood.

The popularity of the site is evident upon arrive: people all over the beach, sitting or wandering with their heads down, staring at their phones. Players said Pratt Beach is a Pokemon Go hotspot.

"This is an area where there's a lot of PokeStops located in one vicinity, and you can set lures to catch Pokemon, and it's a good site to sit and catch a lot of Pokemon," said player Ben Harvey.

Jen Walling of the Illinois Environmental Council plays the gam herself, but she has a problem with some of the targets or PokeStops being placed on the sensitive habitat of the Loyola Dunes Restoration site, a federally protected area.

"There's all sorts of birds and eggs in the grasslands nesting, plants that are endangered and threatened. It's a very special place," Walling said.

As seen on cell phone video, the beach can get pretty crowded at night with Pokemon players. A number of officials said they have reached out to Niantic, the developers of Pokemon Go, asking that they move the PokeStop from the dunes area but have gotten no response.

The Chicago Park District put in a trail to try to keep people off the sensitive areas. Now State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D-14) has introduced legislation to penalize developers of augmented reality games who use protected sites.

"It's a constant area of sensitivity, but never before have we seen something like this. We have the hottest Pokemon Go site in the city," Cassidy said.

The proposed law would fine developers who fail to remove the sites from protected lands. But environmentalists are in a tricky spot, caught between wanting people to come see and appreciate these areas while also protecting them.

"Games like Pokemon can be really helpful in encouraging people to get out and walk and enjoy our parks. The problem comes when you have too much of a good thing," said Jack Darin of the Sierra Club.

Organizers said of the hundreds of messages they've sent to Niantic, they have received just one brief response denying that there are any PokeStops in the Loyola Dunes Restoration site area.