ROGERS PARK — Pokemon Go players are unwittingly trampling endangered plants near a North Side beach, and now the Chicago Park District is asking game developers to step in and remove the protected area from the wildly popular game.
This week, the park district joined Rogers Park neighbors to ask Pokemon Go developers to remove a stop at the Loyola Dunes — a fenced-in habitat that also hosts a popular stop where rare Pokemon appear for a limited time.
Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a park district spokeswoman, said Monday the city contacted the company that manages the application asking them to take out the stop near the dunes.
"The Loyola Dune habitat is the site of many state endangered plants," Maxey-Faulkner said. "Unknowingly, these gamers can trample and destroy habitat protected under state and federal law by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act."
Many people were seen playing in the dunes area Monday afternoon, both on and off the sandy path meant to keep people from trampling endangered plant life. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
An online link where individuals can submit requests for stop removals has also been circulating among community members to get Niantic, the game's developers, to remove the stop.
This week, some neighbors also hung handwritten signs around the 2.75 acre parcel of land along Pratt Pier at the end of Farwell Avenue reminding players — abundant during the day and in the evening — to "stay on path."
"I think this shows how much people care about preserving Rogers Park's street end beach environment, and with better management by Niantic there should be space for everybody in Loyola Park," said Jim Ginderske, a long-time Rogers Park resident and member of the Loyola Park Advisory Council helping to organize preservation efforts among the community.
The problem is the Buddha sculpture stop, which attracts players into an area of the sandy dunes that serves as erosion control for the beach. The stop is a popular site where players can — for a limited time — snag a rare Pokemon.
In doing so, they often wander off the path through the dunes and into the plant and wildlife habitat where endangered species live.
Spencer Carillo, who lives in Rogers Park and was out playing the game near the dunes Monday, said when he was playing there yesterday he'd not seen the handwritten signs warning players to stay on the path.
"I don't like going in there too much because I know it's protected, that sign says it's a bird sanctuary," Carillo said, pointing to an informational sign near the area's entrance. "I think they should move it, a lot of people either don't read the sign or don't understand what it means."
Carillo said he comes to the beach to play both during the day and night, and has seen players jumping over the fence between Pratt Pier and the dunes to get to the stop, inadvertently trampling important grasses and plants.
At night, when more people are out using the app, he said any signs near the dunes are difficult to read.
Everette Johnson, a resident who was out playing with his kids near the dunes, said he also thought people didn't realize they were doing anything wrong by meandering throughout the meadow.
At least one man who noticed players walking off-path Monday started yelling and slinging threats and insults at one of the players — saying he would "punch your f------ teeth in."
The dunes became protected by the city of Chicago in 2003 and a protective fence was added in 2004.
Each year, groups help organize clean-up days for the area, which is a nesting ground for migratory birds, including the Snowy Owl, as well as an abundance of plant life.
Seven other dune locations exist throughout the city, including at nearby Kathy Osterman Beach, Montrose Beach, Foster Beach, as well as Jackson Park, Rainbow Beach Park, North Avenue Beach and the South Shore Cultural Center.
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