Yes, Milwaukee is still talking about Pokemon Go. And still trying to make it (and other games) pay for permits to take up virtual space in Milwaukee County Parks. Wait, scratch that last part, because Milwaukee has finally succeeded.
Thursday, in a Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors meeting, an ordinance was formally adopted requiring all virtual and location-based augmented reality games to apply for permits to do virtual business in Milwaukee County Parks. The ordinance was directly inspired by last summer’s Pokemon Go/Lake Park controversy, which saw thousands of players flocking to, and causing damage to, the East Side park. (Click here for videos and PowerPoint slides.)
During the meeting, ordinance sponsor Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman once again noted that the ordinance was not aimed at Pokemon Go players; rather, it was intended to establish a permitting process for virtual games, similar to the permitting processes for non-virtual companies doing business in Milwaukee County Parks. “This is nothing to do against Pokemon players. Absolutely not,” Wasserman said, after warning that a “new wave” of Pokemon Go-like games was on the horizon, and that “it’ll be your park tomorrow.” Later, ordinance co-sponsor Supervisor David Sartori talked about “used tampons” and “infant diapers filled with fecal matter.”
The ordinance reads as follows:
Virtual and location-based augmented reality games are not permitted in Milwaukee County Parks except in those areas designated with a permit for such use by the Director of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Culture (DPRC). Permits shall be required before any company may introduce a location-based augmented reality game into the Parks, effective January 1, 2017. The permitting application process is further described on DPRC’s website for companies that create and promote such games. That process shall include an internal review by the DPRC to determine the appropriateness of the application based on site selection, protection of rare flora and fauna, personal safety, and the intensity of game activities on park lands. Game activity shall only occur during standard park hours, unless otherwise authorized by the DPRC Director, who has the authority to designate special events and activities within the Parks outside of the standard operational hours.
The ordinance was originally recommended to the County Board back in December. It was referred back to a parks committee weeks later, and then recommended to the County Board again in January. On Thursday, it was finally adopted, 13-4, with Supervisor Peggy West excused. Potential pricing for the permits was not discussed.
A Poke-controversy was touched off last summer when it was revealed that Milwaukee County Parks had written a letter to the developer of Pokemon Go, Niantic, Inc., asking for the removal of PokeStops from Lake Park. The park had become a hugely popular destination for Pokemon Go players, much to the chagrin—and sometimes outright hostility—of neighbors. Trash, parking issues, lack of bathrooms, trampled landscapes, and neighbors threatened with violence were just a few of the problems that arose. The controversy came to a head in September in a boring, livid, and gloriously absurd meeting that found both sides of the issue at wit’s end. In October, a handful of Lake Park PokeStops were indeed removed.
As of press time, Pokemon Go players in Lake Park couldn’t be reached for comment, because the whole thing more or less died out five months ago.