Is Pokemon GO ruining Safety Harbor?
There was a time not too long ago when a trip to the Safety Harbor Marina would reveal small groups of visitors relaxing at Veterans Park, a handful sightseers hoping to spot a manatee or dolphin from the pier, some boaters using the boat ramp, and a few fisherman hauling in the day’s fresh catch.
But a trip to the area today reveals a starkly different scene, one filled with dozens, if not hundreds, of people of all ages walking, then stopping, then walking again, all with their heads pointed down at a mobile device cradled in their hand.
Yes, the Pokemon GO craze has invaded the City of Safety Harbor, for better or worse, and while much has been said and written about the country’s affinity for the recently released app, a deeper look into the phenomenon suggests many Harborites are unsure of how to handle the sudden rush to catch all of the digitally created critters.
“Pokemon must go. He is ruining our fair city,” Tom Swenarton wrote on the Safety Harbor Connect Facebook page last week.
“Hopefully it can soak the phones of all the Pokemon GO peeps that have been taking over the marina lately,” Julie Perretta McCarthy commented on the article about the mayor’s interactive fountain idea.
“I wish we could go back to the manatee being the main attraction of the marina instead of this (sic) silly virtual characters.”
There’s little doubt that the transition from a relatively quiet and relaxing marina to a fully-loaded Poke Stop has been a difficult for some to grasp.
But for every resident lamenting the influx of the gamers, there are those who sing the praises of the app that encourages people to meet up, head outside and enjoy each others company.
“I think it’s fun, and it’s great exercise,” Safety Harbor resident Laurie F. said on Monday evening as she and her husband walked the marina in search of the catchable Pokemon creatures.
“It gets my husband to come out and walk with me, and how can you beat this view down here by the water, especially when it’s so hot outside?”
Judging by the large groups of Pokemon GO-ers in the area, Laurie wasn’t alone in her thinking.
With the craze currently in full swing, city officials as well as some residents are working to capitalize on, and control, the crush of newcomers.
During Monday night’s City Commission meeting, City Manager Matt Spoor addressed a question from Commissioner Carlos Diaz about what the city was doing to help deal with the sudden flood of visitors to the area.
“We’re working with the sheriff,” Spoor said. “We don’t mind the visitors. We don’t mind the individuals using our park. But the issues have been park hours—they’re there ‘til the wee hours of the morning, after midnight—and the issue’s been parking.”
“I was down there last week and there were cars parked on the grass, there were cars parked illegally in the handicapped spaces, and there were cars parked where the boat trailer spaces are. So we’re working with them (sheriff’s deputies) in trying to develop a plan.”
In addition to devising a plan to deal with curfew breakers and parking space violators, others in town are developing plans to coexist with, and potentially benefit from, all the Pokemon GO players.
The city’s parks and rec department is hosting a special Pokemon GO camp this week, with participants taking daily excursions around the city in search of the elusive creatures, culminating in a massive themed party at City Park this Friday night.
And one resident is in the process of coming up with ways for merchants to take advantage of the additional Poke-traffic in the downtown district.
“I’ve been involved with computers and technology for more than 30 years, teaching kids and studying new trends, and this Pokemon GO craze has really fascinated me,” Nancy Vellucci, a longtime resident who is very active in the community, told Safety Harbor Connect by phone.
“After seeing how many people in town are playing it, I thought, we need to come up with a way to capitalize on it, and find out how can we deal with the negatives while taking advantage of the positives.”
Vellucci, a self-described idea person who normally likes to remain behind the scenes, recently brought her ideas to MOSH as the official representative for SHAMC, and she said she is working on ways to effectively use the fanaticism behind Pokemon GO to benefit the community.
“I’m working on a map of all the Poke Stops in Safety Harbor,” she said, noting there are upwards of 50 such locations in the downtown district alone. “And we’re going to come up with an e-blast to send out that will help merchants take advantage of the additional foot traffic in town as a result of the game.”
“It’s such an interesting phenomenon for me, because it’s getting kids to interact with their parents and other adults when they normally might not be.”
“People are getting outside because of Pokemon GO,” she added. “They might have their heads down looking at their phones, but if you’re going to take something with technology and put it outside, I think that’s great.”
Whether or not Vellucci’s plan to help merchants draw revenue from a roving band of video game players remains to be seen.
But for now, and for the foreseeable future, Safety Harbor is the epicenter of the Pokemon GO world, and Harborites will have to learn how to live with it.
Harborites, how do you feel about the Pokemon GO craze invading the city? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below:
See… you all were complaining about nothing..
Well, I play Pokemon, but I’m also a boater and like to use the ramp here. If I see a car using the designated double long spaces for trailers, I’ll call the police and have them write a ticket. I’ve done it in the past before Pokemon. In my old days, I would slash their tires.
^Dude, what’s wrong with you? Does being a dueche work out for you? If so, in what way?
Hi I just wanted to say I never really wanted to go out to the park go to the beach with anybody but now since Pokemon go came online I’m doing more things now than I did like doing more walking and having fun with my family and my girlfriend pretty silly I know but it is a lot of fun and yes people should respect the rules of the parks.
I have no direct objection to the Pokemon game. However, as a slip renter and boat owner in our marina since 1998, I have an objection to the parking issue that the game has created for slip renters.
The City has recently assigned four “permit only” parking spaces for slip renters along the seawall which are near the main entrance to the docks. Boat owners are very appreciative of this new designation. The problem is that the Pokemon crowd is totally ignoring the signage and every day/evening these spots are usually filled with violators. To my knowledge the City is not enforcing with tickets from the sheriff. In addition, I personally have had Pokeman gamers walk in front of my car as I have driven through the marina looking for a place to park. I have had two close calls with pedestrians that are walking while looking down into their electronic devices.
I know that slip renters are a minority in the City, but I thought the folks ought to know how negatively this game phenomenon is affecting those of us that pay to have our boats in the marina. We would expect that an inherent right to park would be part of the paid privilege to be there.
When analyzing the pros and cons of the additional traffic in our great City, please consider the concerns of everyone that is affected.
First World Problems.
Despite the crowds, parking on Main St. hasn’t been an issue. The new lot across from Starbucks barely sees 10 cars parked there on a given night. So parking isn’t keeping diners and shoppers away. The police are doing a great job of stopping people from parking on the trailer parking area of the Marina. Let’s embrace Pokemon players and help merchants find a way the monetize this craze while it’s hot. As Gisela and Laura say these players bring a positive enthusiastic vibe to the city. Let’s roll with it and make it work for us.
If we are already worried about more people coming into town, then why are we trying to promote the city for just that? I love it when I am bringing my tours through town, and they see how busy the downtown area is. They love it! People are going outside, being social and the city wants to make it harder???? I say let them come! The chamber, MOSH, all these organizations need to jump on board and help promote it. They are all about bringing business here right? Just wondering.
Co-exist – yes. Remain positive. This craze, like most, will slow down, wear itself out.
It is a strange phenomenon. We were at the pier last night, at first didn’t know what’s going on, with everyone, I mean EVERYONE walking around, holding a cell phone in their hands. We stopped two different small groups of young people, and they eagerly explained to us what they were doing, showing us some images. I have to say: there were lots of people, maybe too many, but the atmosphere was one of peaceful excitement, and sort-of togetherness. No rowdies.
I think ya a great way to get kids outside , families playing together. Is there something wrong with a Popular tourist destination haveing lots of people come to it?
I haven’t jumped on the Pokémon band wagon yet but have been a geocacher for years. There is, or at least was, a geocache at the pier and several more around the city. I look at the Pokémon craze as the newest version of GPS tracking games. What a great way for our young people to get outside and explore all the wonderful sights around town. As long as everyoneplays by the rules and respects our property, I say GO!