Poke-Stop Removal at the Ferry Terminal

This is about values, not about park usage

About a week ago, I published an article about Pokemon GO, talking about the benefits of the game to public life, urban sociability, and (briefly) the power to make nerds feel more comfortable in public.

Since writing that article, everything I’ve seen regarding the game and how people play it, has reinforced my opinions. Just yesterday me and my Friend Robert chose to go poke-hunting instead of staying inside and playing video games in front of a television.

All of this of course is why I was so dismayed to hear that John Tory helped shut down five of the nine pokestops near Harbour Square Park and the Jack Layton ferry terminal. The reasons given for this were to balance the “element of disruption.”

Now, I understand that the ferry terminal serves as a major transportation point to and from the islands. And keeping that already long lineup moving is important. So removing the pokestops would make sense if the Pokemon players were actually blocking the lineup.

But the ferry terminal is not all there is to the space. The park surrounding it, stretches on for a ways, with no access or impediment to the ferries, and many Pokemon players crowd around these grassy spaces, rather than in the ferry lineup.

So if Pokemon players aren’t really blocking the way to the terminal, what gives? This can’t have to do with a park being too crowded — after all, Trinity Bellwood’s is PACKED during the summer, and we don’t see a concern there, or a crackdown of the drinking in public that arguably attracts many people there. We celebrate it as a well used public space. Period.

Trinity Bellwoods.

The solution to having too many people in parks cannot be to take people out of them. It must be to build new ones.

This can only mean the element of disruption that John Tory is reffering to is the nature of augmented reality games themselves. This idea that Pokémon players are disrupting the “proper” uses if parks is very disturbing to me. What *is* the proper use of a park? Is it sports? Is it passively watching the world go by? Is it researching trees or flowers?

While all of those represent legitimate uses of public space, not everyone can do those activities, and not everyone wants to (a physically disabled person for example may not be able to play soccer). A park is public space, and people should be able to do what they want in it (so long as it doesn’t impact others).

Back in the Victorian era, London, we can see very clearly that parks were made for leisure — they were places that people would sit down at with a book, some food, or both. It wasn’t until later that the government designed for active uses in those spaces. Today, we face the same re-imagining and expansion of public space as we did back then. It’s time we lay these modern-day Victorian attitudes to rest.

Parks are for people. And people like Pokemon.