Creators of virtual reality games and other "location-based augmented reality games" such as Pokémon Go could not use sites in Milwaukee County Parks without a permit approved by the Parks Department, under a proposed ordinance recommended for approval Tuesday by a County Board committee.
Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman requested an ordinance specifically targeting Pokémon Go and other virtual reality games that incorporate park locations in response to daily throngs of players this summer who tossed trash and trampled turf at Lake Park.
Wasserman and other county officials have described Lake Park as one of the most active Pokémon Go sites in the Midwest after Niantic Inc. placed game characters at numerous historic landmarks and other designated stations, known as "Poke stops."
"This finally addresses a problem we have in Milwaukee County," Wasserman said Tuesday. "Electronic gaming is here to stay. It will be affecting all our parks."
The County Board will act on the proposal at its Dec. 15 meeting.
Neighbors of Lake Park this summer urged county officials to better control large crowds of up to several hundred Pokémon Go players a day who started using the park in early July.
In response to complaints of littering, lack of restrooms, traffic congestion and late-night activity, law enforcement officers have cited several hundred players for not heeding the park's closing hours and other violations of county and city ordinances. Unauthorized vendors also have been cited there.
By August, crews of inmates from the county's House of Correction were accumulating required community service hours by picking up litter several days a week at Lake Park.
Under the proposed virtual gaming ordinance, parks staff will determine required fees when establishing the permit process that is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, Parks Director John Dargle said. Parks staff also could set fines or other penalties for noncompliance when drafting the final permit procedures.
In authorizing a permit, the parks department will decide if a location is appropriate for use by players of the virtual reality games, Dargle said. Among criteria listed in the ordinance to be considered in reviewing a permit application: personal safety; impact on rare plants and wildlife; and expected intensity of activity in a park.
Interim Corporation Counsel Colleen Foley said the ordinance strikes a balance between rights of players, the county's responsibility to properly manage parks and rights of neighbors.
The ordinance defines virtual gaming as "an activity during which a person can experience being in a three-dimensional environment and interact with that environment during a game, and the game typically consists of an artificial world of images and sounds created by a computer that is affected by the actions of a person who is experiencing it."
Virtual reality games are not covered by the county's existing geocaching permit requirements. Those guidelines were published several years ago when outdoor geocaching became popular among families using GPS devices and published cache locations.