14139186_1414602875232809_693918719_o A large group of Pokémon Go players congregate in the crowded marina parking lot and pier around 8:30 p.m. on Aug. 8, 2016 (click image to see larger version). Photo by Diane Towne.[/caption]

By Jack Mayne & Scott Schaefer

Despite rumblings from nearby condominium residents and those living on-board boats at the Des Moines Marina, there is no thought about trying to ban the new Pokémon Go game in Des Moines – even if there was a realistic way to do so. Assistant Des Moines City Manager Michael Matthias says the city has asked the game maker – Niantic Corp. of San Francisco – to cut down on the number of Pokémon Go “Pokestops” and virtual critters to be found by smartphones near and around the marina, one of the hottest Pokémon spots in the region. He and several citizens living in the area have complained of trash and garbage piling up from the uncharacteristic number of new and absorbed visitors walking with heads down and eyes focused on their phone screens. Some claim that people have walked out in front of their moving cars, and the marina parking lot has been jammed full on the recent warm summer evenings. Problems for the Des Moines Police have surfaced when the city tries to close the marina parking lot at its usual closing time. People are actually walking The whole craze in the marina area began around the first of July, Matthias said. “There are definitely positives, I have seen families walk down there.” But what became a slight challenge for the city is the safety of people with “literally hundreds and hundreds of people down there every night” and they are focused on what they are doing and not about other people, skateboarders, and even traffic moving in and out of parking spots. He said they have had to bring extra police to clear the parking lot at the 10 p.m. normal closing time. “People distracted while they are walking, while they are driving and so just for safety’s sake other parts of the city are not being patrolled,” he said. The city has also hired extra security on weekends to make sure the area is as safe as possible. Keeping the Marina area free of trash and garbage further strains the city’s fragile finances, Matthias said. Wouldn’t increased foot traffic = more business? Wayne Corey, President of the Board of the Des Moines Waterfront Farmers Market, is not a fan of the game. “It is having a negative impact on the market,” Corey said. “The biggest problem is their cars taking up parking that shoppers would normally use. Inside the market they are a nuisance, as they are always knocking into people who are shopping. We have been asking them to please watch were they are walking, which they seem to ignore. They are at the marina and beach park all night long, making loud noises, leaving mass amounts of garbage and racing cars up and down the streets.” City Council discusses issue To try to lessen the problems, the City Council passed a resolution directing Matthias to ask Niantic Corp. to “take the Marina off the Pokémon map, to cut down the number of critters in Des Moines, lessening the lure on the Marina for gamers.” Here’s a video of the council’s 36-minute discussion at their Aug. 18 meeting: [embed]https://youtu.be/sWUsDd-O6U8[/embed] No response has been received by the city as of Thursday (Aug. 25), Matthias said, but it’s possible the issue will come up again at the next meeting, set for Sept. 8. Des Moines Police see increase in calls The Des Moines Police Department told The Waterland Blog that they have seen an increase in calls for service throughout the city because of the Pokémon Go game and its participants. Police advise citizens interested in learning more about related calls for this game to visit the City of Des Moines website at www.desmoineswa.gov. Once there go to city services-police-dmpd crime blotter, where you can review the list of police calls for service. Sgt. Doug Jenkins also told us that police have also been told the city will “be making a formal statement about Pokémon Go players in our city in the very near future.” Some are out playing at 4:30 a.m. Residents complain that, despite these public parks being closed by police, Pokémon Go players often re-surface around 1 or 2 a.m., with some players getting loud, arguing, using alcohol and drugs, littering and more. Some have even been seen playing as late as 4:30 a.m. “We have people trespassing on our property – urinating, etc.,” resident Diane Towne told The Waterland Blog. “One young man called my neighbor the ‘c-word’ when she reminded him he was on private property from her deck. We have signs and orange cones all over but they are disregarded by some.” Towne added:
“The police sometimes come through to clear the cars out but they just come back. Nothing prevents the walking traffic. People are out at 1:30–3:30 a.m. – you can still see people walking at 4:30 a.m. –  you can tell because the cell phone screens are lit.”
First-hand research Scott Schaefer, founder and publisher of the South King Media Blogs, went to the Marina and Beach Park area Wednesday night to take some video and photos of this growing issue. Schaefer walked through the area for a few hours with his family (including two teenagers), both observing others and playing the game from around 7 – 9 p.m. During this time, the Sunset Farmers Market was taking place, as well as a free concert in nearby Beach Park; the temperature was in the 70s and the area was very crowded. There “seemed to be a very high ratio of Pokémon Go players vs. non-players; I’d say that at least one out of every three people there were playing the game – more depending on where you went – but not everyone was,” Schaefer said. Most of the Pokémon Go players were younger, in their teens and 20s, and many younger families were participating together. “I saw no activity that I would consider a ‘nuisance’ though – no fights, yelling, littering, alcohol/drug use, etc., just mostly younger people looking at their phones while walking, playing the game, talking to total strangers and enjoying the marina. Positives seen: families with kids walking/talking/playing together, teens walking, and strangers actually talking to each other.” Here are some videos and photos Schaefer shot at the marina: [fbvideo link=”https://www.facebook.com/waterlandblog/videos/10154442661513844/” width=”500″ height=”400″ onlyvideo=”1″] [embed]https://youtu.be/LDZlddmlm-s[/embed] [caption id="attachment_59463" align="aligncenter" width="490"]IMG_5220 Screenshot from the game shows how “rich” the Des Moines Marina area is in Pokéstops and virtual critters. Each of the glowing towers near the top indicate Pokestops. Also note the ‘Magikarp’ flopping in the foreground, waiting to be captured.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_59478" align="aligncenter" width="490"]IMG_5235 And yes, that Magikarp was caught…[/caption] [caption id="attachment_59464" align="aligncenter" width="490"]IMG_5224 The Des Moines Marina Office Sign is a “Pokéstop” where players can get free items by flicking and spinning the circular photo around.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_59465" align="aligncenter" width="490"]IMG_5289 This ‘Psyduck’ critter was caught in the doorway of Anthony’s Restaurant.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_59466" align="aligncenter" width="490"]IMG_5282 Most trash cans in the area were seen overflowing. NOTE: “The Best Damn Root Beer” is an alcoholic version of the popular soda drink.[/caption] Conspiracy theory from former Water Commissioner Numerous area residents have expressed concern over the increase in foot and vehicle traffic related to Pokémon Go players. Here’s an interesting one from Allie Larkin, former Water District 54 Commissioner (known for her anti-fluoride stance), who believes the game is “part of the biggest mind program experiment on the planet” and calls game-players “zombies”: [embed]https://youtu.be/rm3BRiC4OYk[/embed] Resident Carol Devries sent us these photos and note: [caption id="attachment_59471" align="aligncenter" width="490"]DSC00138 Another night, another crowded marina area full of Pokémon Go players.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_59470" align="aligncenter" width="490"]DSC09664 Players often walk back into the marina area after parking has been closed. This photo was taken around 2 a.m. on a recent morning.[/caption] [caption id="attachment_59472" align="aligncenter" width="490"]20160825_074148_resized Evidence of Pokémon Go players in the marina parking lot.[/caption]
Pokemon Go was released July 6, 2016.  Since that time, the City of Des Moines Marina north lot has had a vehicle count at 10:00 P.M. closing which runs between 80 to 220 cars.  After 10:00 P.M. closing, vehicles continue to drive around the south lot barricades and enter the north lot throughout the night.  The only exception is when the already strained police department is able to close down the lot by making announcements that cars must have a City of Des Moines Marina Permit to remain.  If you don’t have that type of permit, then the fine is $175 (I think).  Mass cars leave.  When the Police depart, many cars return. A huge increase in garbage has resulted since Pokemon Go started.  Food waste, cigarettes, alcoholic and non-alcoholic bottles & cans in both the parking lot and Beach Park has caused extra work for staff.  Swisher Sweet cigar split wrappers are common in the marina (a favorite for cannabis users). Our Homeowner Association has posted five No Trespassing signs which are not respected.  We find garbage, cigarette butts (we are a non-smoking property) and alcohol bottles, see players smoking marijuana on site and even caught a teenager stealing electricity to charge his cell phone from an outside outlet.  We are told to “get a life”, “I’m not bothering you” or called “bitter old people”.  Maybe they will think differently when they have worked for years and know what the cost of purchasing and maintaining property.  We ask Pokemon Go Players not to park in our reserved parking spaces.  We have now coned off that area. Some owners have been called obscene names (Fu***** Cu** and Fu***** Sl**) and been verbally harassed by Pokemon Go players, when asked to leave private property or to quiet down after hours. The sheer numbers of Pokemon Go player’s cars have caused traffic issues as well … Pokemon players drive and play at the same time (like texting and driving), stopping in the middle of the Dock Avenue as well as Cliff Avenue. Cars drive at less than 12 MPH and are able to catch characters this way. This causes traffic issues and near misses. At times, we are unable to access our garage because a player blocks our driveway. Smoking marijuana has increased and is prevalent and invasive if we leave our deck doors open. We no longer use our decks in the evening due to the excessive noise.
Phil Dehnert posted this comment to our Waterland Blog Facebook page (NOTE: we have no idea why he’s blaming us as well!):
“We LIVE HERE in a condo along with hundreds of other waterfront residents. We have not been listened to by DM Police, the DM government, the DM Marina folks or Anthony’s Homeport Restaurant and now we can add the Waterland Blog. We are VERY TIRED of the Pokemon Go parade of Zombies everyday and night for the last 2 months. If you send your mocking videographer out again, send him out much later. PG kids are pretty quiet and cute during the day. They get ugly at night and some are loud and mean. They start to party. Mainly though, the concern for us condo owners is that THE POKEMON GO ZOMBIES JUST WILL NOT GO AWAY! Most activities held down here are arranged with authorities. They have monitored start and stop hours and days. This THING just goes on forever and takes over the WHOLE “WATERLAND” area. (We won’t be involved anymore. We are out of this. We think the 11PM to 4AM crowd is shrinking a little bit daily. Maybe these kids can soon find a “Life after Pokemon Go”. Or, . . . maybe they could now come stay in YOUR neighborhood?) :)”
On Thursday, area resident Cheryl Bourg posted this comment on our Facebook page:
“We live aboard our sailboat at the marina and agree that something needs to change, although not necessarily ban it entirely,” Bourg wrote. “For the most part, the walkers are respectful. The traffic at the marina has increased, but we are on with that … and it seems good for the community and the vendors. “Safety is our biggest concern,” Bourg added. “The worst offenders are the distracted drivers! Distracted Driving is now illegal, so why do they think they can drive through our marina park, staring at their phones? “Guess these are the ‘lazy’ players that won’t walk. They drive around, staring at their phones, paying little attention to the one-way signs, walkers and skateboarders. I was almost hit once trying to walk from my car to my gate. And another time, I had a skateboarder come whizzing out around the corner of the boat sheds (in the road, turning the wrong way) and almost collide with my car,” Bourg wrote. “In reality, video games are fun…but can be addicting and distract us easily. Now, if the new trend is that these games are taking us out into the community, the game companies need to be more considerate of the locations they use, and people need to be more respectful and obey the basic driving laws and park rules.”
Pokémon Go game makers enjoying it all On their website, Niantic Corp. said of the worldwide craze it has been a rough time:
“Things have been pretty crazy here at Niantic over the last few weeks but despite all of the ups and downs we get up every day inspired by the original goals of Niantic – to create an experience that encourages healthy outdoor exploration and social gameplay. Every positive story we hear … motivates us to keep working to support the game and continue the rollout. Running a product like Pokémon GO at scale is challenging. Those challenges have been amplified by third parties attempting to access our servers in various ways outside of the game itself.”
What do YOU think of this new Pokémon Go craze? Please take our poll below: [poll id=”5″]]]>