Mere weeks after the violent Black Lives Matter riots in Milwaukee, Wisc., the county’s officials are focused on an even more pressing problem — Pokémon GO. This week, the county’s CEO sent a letter to Niantic, the company behind the trend-setting app, demanding it comply with city ordinances. He would have the company obtain a permit before setting up any PokéStops, WISN reported Tuesday.
“To place a physical or virtual cache [a location connected to a game like Pokémon Go], you must have prior written permission from the Milwaukee County Parks Land Manager,” the county’s website explains. “For each cache location, complete a separate Permit Request Form, provide a map (a Google Earth or similar map), and send them as attachments to your email to [email protected]”
Pokémon GO is a virtual scavenger-hunt game which uses the GPS in smart devices to allow players to discover virtual Pokémon in the wild. The game also involves two kinds of stationary virtual locations: gyms and PokéStops. At these locations, you can pick up items (like a geocache), or fight your Pokémon against those of other players.
Niantic has acquired a network of geocaches from a previous game, and seems not to have followed the local ordinances for such things. The county may have a legitimate complaint, but it seems Milwaukee has more important things to focus on.
On Thursday, Milwaukee County Parks Director John Dargle assured Fox News that the county is not trying to stop people from playing Pokémon GO at county parks. Dargle explained that the letter he sent to Niantic merely asked the company to help the county manage high-traffic congestion, littering, and parking issues.
Milwaukee’s Lake Park has been a hot spot for the game, reportedly leading to complaints from locals living nearby.
County Executive Chris Abele issued a public statement explaining his actions, and filled it with humorous Pokémon references. He insisted that “we’ve enjoyed watching the Pokémon GO phenomenon take off in our County parks,” but pointed out that “the increase in traffic has unfortunately come with some bad park-use etiquette that harms the Prestige level of our system and leads to problems for neighbors who’ve chosen to make their homes near County parks.”
After this opening, Abele let the Poké references go wild:
I believe that the County’s PokéCoins should be spent investing in new amenities everyone can enjoy, expanding our Urban Parks Initiative, and upgrading more parks to be ADA accessible – not on additional park patrols and clean-up crews necessitated by a few bad Krabbies who won’t pick up their Muk. That’s why we’ve asked Niantic, the developer of Pokémon GO, to simply follow our documented permitting process for geocaching so that they can share in the responsibility of maintaining these spaces. It’s not a Mystic request; more than 400 local users have applied for and received these permits over the past eight years and we think large corporations should be held to the same standards.
To be clear, simply playing Pokémon GO doesn’t require a permit – that would be Tentacruel to ask of people who are just trying to get outside and explore our parks. Milwaukee County Parks are open and we want more people to Pika-choose them today and every day.”
This is a completely legitimate concern for a county park service to have, and Abele’s good humor surrounding the issue is certainly commendable. Nevertheless, coming so quickly after the the devastating damage caused by rioters earlier this month, it may seem petty.