No ban, but concerns over Pokémon Go players in Des Moines; plus, take our Poll


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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.

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:

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:

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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.

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And yes, that Magikarp was caught…

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The Des Moines Marina Office Sign is a “Pokéstop” where players can get free items by flicking and spinning the circular photo around.

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This ‘Psyduck’ critter was caught in the doorway of Anthony’s Restaurant.

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Most trash cans in the area were seen overflowing. NOTE: “The Best Damn Root Beer” is an alcoholic version of the popular soda drink.

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”:

Resident Carol Devries sent us these photos and note:

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Another night, another crowded marina area full of Pokémon Go players.

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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.

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Evidence of Pokémon Go players in the marina parking lot.

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:

Should the City of Des Moines stop Pokémon Go from being played at its marina/parks?

View Results

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Comments

22 Responses to “No ban, but concerns over Pokémon Go players in Des Moines; plus, take our Poll”
  1. Laura says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 44

    • Ferdi Tayfur Solak says:

      I don’t understand how people leaving their garbage around there has anything to do with pokemon… if this game wasn’t out I still think people are gonna litter… and who are you to tell people bow to spend their time? Some people like watching sunset(you) some people like playing video games….. some people like to smoke weed…. some people like to sleep… so I don’t understand why youre worried about what other People do… I think you should just worry about yourself.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 11

    • Lainey says:

      I have to disagree. As a person who is down at the marina regularly playing I’ve noticed myself walking more and developing a neighborly community by chatting with people I would have otherwise never met. I do see the sunsets and enjoy the fresh air. I can’t speak for everyone but I play my looking up and walking around until my phone buzzes, similarly to how most people answer texts. When it buzzes I know there’s a Pokemon within range, I stop walking and step out of the way, then check my phone for a moment. Then I’m done, I put my phone down and continue walking. The economy boost the area is experiencing is also notable.

      Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  2. Teniel says:

    Des Moines marina is a public park, how people enjoy it is their choice. MOST of the Pokémon players are respectful of park rules and the residents and clean up after themselves and are embarrassed by the inappropriate behavior of a few. The garbage and other issues cannot only be blamed on players but also on the increased traffic during the summer. Local businesses, the farmers market are benefitting from an extra boost in revenue thanks to Pokémon too!

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 54 Thumb down 15

    • Nikki says:

      Im 45 years old. Have lived in the area for 26 years and LOVE that this has brought people OUT and MOVING! Including ME! Im a photographer, I work, AND I love hunting pokemon. I have been to the marina several times. Have been there when there are meet-ups. We are talking a few hundred people just hanging out and having fun. THEY REALLY ARE. Yeah, there are a few that don’t play by the rules, as with EVERY area park. They too have after hours drinking and other things. Its a PUBLIC park, meant to be used by people, by families, and it kinda sucks that there are people trying to prevent that. People are coming together for fun, not for fighting or nefarious things. I have NEVER seen any of that. From the looks of things at the local businesses there, they have been reaping the benefits of the increase of people.

      Get a life, and stop trying to run others.

      Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 11

  3. Wendy says:

    If people are trespassing after hours they should be ticketed.
    If they’re there legally, no they should be allowed to be there.

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 48 Thumb down 2

  4. Robin Miller says:

    I have walked at the marina for years. It is public space and no one should be banned for any reason. Including dog owners who do t clean up after their dogs or don’t have them on leashes. I have seen more dog crap than garbage.

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 45 Thumb down 8

  5. Ann E. says:

    As a resident of the marina for 12+ years and living on both the north and south end condos, I have opinions. I definitely know when I moved here the potential for crowds and hanging out type people was a likelihood. I am not living in a secluded area that prohibits outsiders. Des Moines Marina area has always been known as the ‘hangout spot’ going decades back. Now I think that we were noticed by players of the game, it attracts more people. What I wonder too is why is Des Moines not capitalizing on this? We need the visitors for our economy. Like it or not, Des Moines is changing drastically and rapidly. It is too late to stop the growth now and based upon fiscal troubles with the city and empty storefronts, it is the time to encourage visitors, not chase them away.

    While I don’t agree residents here on the marina should have to move or put up with the problems, it needs to remember that we were young once too and the thriving of the marina isn’t limited to upper income people of certain persuasions. Get creative in solving this issue and turn the complaints into something productive.

    Pokémon GO or not, the marina will still have this issue. Maybe host a community clean up weekly where neighbors get to know each other? Perhaps engage regular events around town after dark for all ages? I think we need to start looking at comparing how to popular parks like Alki Beach handles their community in regard to nuisances vs. visitors.

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  6. Phil Dehnert says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 39

    • Drew says:

      Sounds like you are bothered by people having fun, you probably get pissed at people laughing in joy as well. You sound very privileged, arrogant and bitter.

      Many of us pokemon go players do have a job, a hobby and family. Not everyone shares the same work hours, we are not zombies or losers. Just like every culture, fad or activity, there will be those who reak the law. Should we ban everything fun because of a few people.

      My first week walking the Marina, I noticed the amouny of disrespect garbage coming out of the mouths of the older generation who lives in the condo, but have experienced quite the opposite from those participating in the game. How about stop criticisng others for enjoying themselves and get a life!

      By the way, I have grown up in this area and been to this marina at all hours of the night to take photos of various still life imagery, bothered no one. But now if I am down there minding my own around the same late night hours, so older person with nothing better to do will waste the time of the local police by calling 911 just because I am playing a game minding my own business.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 20 Thumb down 10

  7. Erica Juberg says:

    As a lifelong resident of Des Moines, I’m happy to see the marina in use! The “traffic congestion” cited has always been an issue at rush hour because of people trying to take the back roads to Federal Way rather than staying on the freeway; don’t blame Pokemon Go for an old problem.

    Des Moines has been dying for a long time, and businesses have been closing left and right. Having invisible attractions is the best thing that could have happened to us! Des Moines should harness the craze and boost it’s economy! People are finally coming back to our quiet little town, now let’s give them a reason to be here besides Pokemon.

    Perhaps more garbage cans and maintenance employees are in order. Post more signs about the park rules, and up enforcement. Use this opportunity rather than shut it down.

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 55 Thumb down 4

  8. Ferdi Tayfur Solak says:

    The city council took photos of people leaving their garbage everywhere…. I don’t know how that has anything to do with pokemon go… it’s not like pokemon go is hypnotizing them to litter everywhere… so I don’t know why you guys are ruining Everyone’s fun by taking away a game that actually makes you interact with the world.. and even if you guys removed the pokestops from there people would still come there just Cuz they can and to protest against the city. So don’t ruin everyone’s fun just because some people can’t handle the noise… but I agree the park should be closed after a certain time… perhaps around 10:30 or 11:00 PM but other than that I don’t think you guys should ruin people’s fun. Its not right.

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 7

  9. Tony says:

    Its Pokemon not Poke MAN….

    Rate: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  10. Elijah says:

    As a Pokemon player who is there 4-5 times a week and usually there for 4 hours at a time, including times when i leave at midnight, what these residents are saying is mostly exaggerated word-vomit. I’ve seen two times where someone left behind garbage(not counting the random water bottles sitting on tables every now and again) and both times I personally picked those up and threw them away. Pot/weed/marijuana is also rarely smoked where you can smell it. Also never once seen anyone drink alcohol but I have seen a beer can in the trash once.

    What this really is is a bunch of self entitled rich people who care only about themselves. Not that people are having fun at a PUBLIC area or getting into shape or having family time. They are just tired of their little gem of an area having more people there than normal. I never ever write things online but this gross exaggeration here disgusted me.

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 8

  11. Noslen says:

    I think it’s great to see all the different people at the Marina. Something needs to be done about the troublemakers in the AM hours, but most are pleasant and respectful. I have even seen several cleaning up trash of others! As far as residents not feeling safe, I think it has more to do with them being scared of all the diverse people they have to share their space with….I bet there is a lot of culture shock, which makes people anxious. After the summer, the crowd will likely be less, though. This only gives the perspective of a few and one side, waterland blog, you should interview business owners and players too.

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 8

  12. Nathan Martin says:

    I searched this article for the words “educate” “teach” “learn” “improve” and “better.” the only hit I got was “…with nothing *better* to do..” I’m saddened that this article makes no mention of the possibility of helping people who are relatively new to the idea of going out to public spaces. Most Pokemon Go players are young, and are not malicously mistreating our parks, they just need to learn how to take care of our shared spaces. Why is that not the focus here? Instead, the plan is to make them “the other” and figure out how to get rid of them.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 3

  13. Peta says:

    I am in one of the videos and I can tell you that my family take our 2 children and they LOVE the bonding time. We have spent funds in Des Moines at the cafes, Farmer’s market and restaurants several times in the last month thanks to Pokemon. Before that we’d never even been to the marina. It will be a shame if they remove the Pokestops. This game helps get people out and active and a reason to leave the comfort of their homes!

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 3

  14. Steve says:

    I am 45 and pay taxes and play Pokemon go. Just wondering if the water and park were there when these people bought their condos there? These are the same people who complain about airport traffic noise. YES get a life and enjoy your view. As for the city more calls to police is assumed to be cause of Pokemon! It’s summer.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 13 Thumb down 4

  15. Limited Parking says:

    If the game company could relocate a couple of “spots” to Denny’s up on Highway 99, ASAP, that would be great.
    Sincerely, Denny’s Management.

    Well-liked. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

    • Jonny says:

      There is a backlog of businesses submitting suggestions for Pokestops and Gyms. But being 3 blocks from a gym or 1 block from a Pokestop will increase your business traffic if you know how the game works. Lures work to bring players. One thing players need the most while playing is a place to sit, charge their phones, and have a drink or snack. If you can provide those and provide incentives known to players, it will increase your business. Being on top of a gym is the best. However, that is rare nowadays because of the backlog. Niantic will more likely accept your request if your submission includes a public work of art or attraction because it works well with their game strategy. http://www.inc.com/walter-chen/pok-mon-go-is-driving-insane-amounts-of-sales-at-small-local-businesses-here-s-h.html

      Rate: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  16. Jonny says:

    I used to live in Des Moines but moved away because of racist people that live in our neighborhood. Back then the neighborhood is always dark, empty and businesses close early. Going back to the Marina this passed week, I was surprised that businesses are open even as late as 11 pm. Des Moines can capitalize on this opportunity because the Marina is one of the most concentrated spots for diverse Pokemon creatures and lots of Pokestops. If you provide incentives and help Pokemon players with their hunt, it would drive business up. It’s true. This game can only last till next year until players max out the game. However, a new Harry Potter game is coming out next year by the same company using the same formula allowing players to visit places of interest.

    Rate: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  17. Laurie M says:

    It seems the major problems and complaints involve those few players who use the Marina floor as their gathering area for partying after the Marina closes at 10 P.M., moving down to the Anthonys parking lot. No one should have to keep their windows closed on a warm summer night nor be awakened several times a week at 3:30 A.M. as has been the case since Pokemon Go started in early July. When school starts and paid parking begins it may become less a problem – one that is shared by a larger area of Des Moines. Just where are all those vehicles going to park? As others have suggested, perhaps other businesses could request Pokestops be placed near them. Do the gamers become customers of local businesses? Do we want our stretched-thin police dealing with this? Who pays for the extra security? It seems a good start to realize that this is another case of a few ruining something enjoyed by many!

    Rate: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

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