ROGERS PARK — Go away, Pokemon Go.
So says a state lawmaker who is introducing legislation to force the developer of the widely popular game to remove a stop that has resulted in players trampling a protected area of the Rogers Park lakefront.
State Rep. Kelly Cassidy has introduced "Pidgey's Law" to help protect vulnerable properties and hold game developers more accountable after Pokemon Go developers failed to remove a game stop from Loyola Dunes.
Linze Rice talks about the proposed Video Game Legislation.
The Location-based Video Game Protection Act would create an easier and more "streamlined" way for property owners and managers to request locations, like the "Buddha Rising" Pokestop, be removed.
"There's been real damage done to this site that people have spent hours and dollars restoring," Cassidy said. "It shouldn't have happened."
The bill requires that game developers "shall remove from its location-based video game an ecologically sensitive site or location, historically significant site or location, site or location on private property, or site or location otherwise deemed as dangerous by the real property owner, manager, or custodian."
The law gives game developers two business days to remove the stop and provides a pathway to civil legal recourse if developers fail to make the removal, as well as enforces a $100 a day fine each day the game location continues to exist after the two-day period.
Cassidy, who lives in Rogers Park and enjoys playing Pokemon Go, said there are some places, such as the Holocaust Museum who also requested stops at its location to be removed, should be off-limits.
"Don't put it in the middle of a protected space ... that would be true whether we're talking about a Lincoln site where it should be a little more reverent than people screaming, 'Bulbasaur' and running after it," Cassidy said.
The name "Pidgey" refers to a Pokemon resembling a bird and also pays homage to the migratory birds who nest in the Loyola Dunes along Lake Michigan in Rogers Park where the "Buddha Rising" stop attracts hundreds of players each night.
"While Pokemon Go and other augmented reality games may be helpful in getting people outside more, we have to make sure fragile areas aren't trampled," said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club.
"Hopefully people can enjoy the real butterflies and sparrows while they’re chasing Pokemon’s Butterfrees and Spearows."
Cassidy said she first made contact with Niantic Labs, the developer of the popular game, Aug. 5 and despite a social media campaign, as well as the Chicago Park District, requesting the stop in the dunes be removed, she never received a response.
One person who made a removal request was told in a message from Niantic that "there are no Pokestops or Gyms at that location."
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.
Volunteers and the park district later put up signs and a roped walkway through the dunes to alert players to stay on track, but at night it can be difficult to see those markers, and hundreds of plays regularly ascend on the site, Cassidy said.
"What I've seen out a Pratt is overwhelmingly positive," Cassidy said. "People are talking to each other and hanging out and being peaceful and friendly and fun, I see all sorts of great things and I don't want that to stop — but if we were to take the stop out of the middle of the migratory bird nesting site, we'd be all good."
Players can request stops be removed through Niantic's website, but the process is complex and requires latitude and longitude specifications making it difficult to easily make the request, Cassidy said.
In response to an email from DNAinfo, Niantic directed a reporter to use the removal request link.
Cassidy said her legislation was about "getting in something in place that ... doesn't require a surveying degree" and was a more "thoughtful and user-friendly way to address this.
"It shouldn't be that hard to make a repair like this," she said. "I'm really proud of how the park district has responded, how our community has responded and folks have stepped up. It's a huge testament to how amazing our neighborhood is."
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