Milwaukee’s Lake Park is one of the most popular local Pokémon Go play areas. Crowds of people are lured to the handful of PokéStops, hoping to catch a rare pocket monster. The phenomenon intrigues some, and annoys others.
There's been heated public debate around Pokémon playing in Lake Park, prompting Milwaukee County Parks Director John Dargle to release a statement. It said Milwaukee County Parks hopes to partner with the company that developed Pokémon Go to “manage both respect for our parks and neighbors.”
County parks representatives along with Supervisors Sheldon Wasserman and Jason Haas will be among those present at a meeting Wednesday, September 7 to address Pokémon questions and concerns. The gathering will take place 6:30 - 8:30 pm in the Marcia Coles Community Room, located at 3133 E. Newberry Blvd.
On a recent summer night, a kaleidoscope of ages and races were at play in Lake Park in pursuit of imaginary creatures.
Drayden Jay is in the middle of a huge clump of people and just caught an elusive dragon - the Dragonite. He explains that the more people congregating in one spot, the higher the chance of finding a more valuable Pokémon.
"With this many people collectively here, it increases the chance for rare things to spawn,” he says. "It’s all based off of cell phone data uses. The more data usage being extracted from one area, the higher the chance of something rare spawning."
Jay says friendship also spawns. "I’ve made some of I’d say my closest friends just playing this game, because we have something in common, there’s that connection."
It’s a night of firsts for James Williams. The Milwaukee resident is playing the game for the first time and just captured a Pokémon. He’s never before been in Lake Park.
“This is my first time in this park ever,” Williams says.
Jennifer Dobert is here alone, but not alone. “Every night I come and play Pokémon,” she says.
Dobert says she’s been playing Pokémon Go since almost day one, and one element she likes best is being around all sorts of people.
“Before Pokeman you wouldn’t see this many people anywhere unless a festival came. You wouldn’t see people outside. The kids are on their video games inside. I think it’s making people come together as a community. There’s never violence,” Dobert says.
She says she has never felt uncomfortable. “Nope, not at all, it’s peaceful,” Dobert says.
Dobert says she also feels healthier. “Since I started playing Pokémon, I lost 15 pounds,” she says.
Peter Van Sletth applauds Dobert’s achievement. “Awesome, I think that’s terrific,” he says.
However, he is less awed about the load of people congregating in Lake Park. Van Sletth lives across the street.
“You know last night was particularly bad, at one time there were roughly 35 people in front of our house. They weren’t being mean or anything, but completely unaware. I don’t think you should have Pokémon monsters in the ordinary sidewalk area. That makes no sense at all,” Van Sletth says.
Fellow neighbor Mary Bridges says she fears someone will eventually be injured.
“People will spot or find, I don’t know what it’s called, and they’ll have kids on their shoulders and they’re running, and they’re running across the street while cars are turning, doing U-turns,” Bridges says. She says other neighbors have reported what she describes as disrespectful behavior.
“You know there really aren’t enough bathroom facilities to host all of these people who come here – I guess I’m trying to say this best that I can – for the hundreds and even thousands of people that are here sometimes, so then that results in mistreatment of the park and the land,” Bridges adds, "I’ve a noticed a lot more littering."
Pokémon Go trainer Erich Lane plans to attend the public meeting Wednesday. He says he not only love the game, he cares about the park too. "I want to make my presence there basically as an offer for any community service. If we all come together because we've got this community and now we can communicate and come up with a positive solution for what's honestly a very minor problem," Lane adds says. "It would be effortless. We just need everybody to agree. The most important thing is to have a public discussion."