‘Ottawa’ Ottawa Park and Pokémon Go Hot Spot Attracts Nearly $12,000 in Parking Tickets
What do you get when you mix a Pokémon Go hot spot, a sailing club and a city park?
A busted Wi-Fi network and nearly $11,880 in parking tickets, apparently.
At least that was the case last weekend, when Ottawa bylaw officers descended on Dick Bell Park off Carling Avenue and handed out 264 parking tickets during a three-day blitz. One hundred and thirty-four tickets were handed out on the Monday alone.
The ticketing at the park, which juts out into the Ottawa River, comes as it’s discovered newfound popularity as a great spot to catch Pokémon.
Since the release of the online game, which involves players using their mobile devices to try to find and catch the online creatures, an estimated 200 to 300 players are flocking to the lighthouse on the point across from the Nepean Sailing Club nightly.
The result is often parking chaos, as cars are left on the lawn or lining the roadways once the designated parking spots are filled. Drivers are also leaving their cars in the lot after the park’s 11 p.m. closing, another no-no, according to the city’s bylaw department.
Each offence carries a $45 fine. And the weekend ticketing was indiscriminate, catching both Pokémon Go players and members of the sailing club. The club members, who pay annual fees, now often arrive to find no place to park, even though in years past they say they were able to park on the grass without ever getting a ticket.
Sailing club member Miles Hammond found himself ticketed after parking on the grass Monday. He said the lot was so full that cars were driving up and down the grass looking for spots.
“I can’t wait for a parking spot because the guys who are playing Pokémon are there for, like, 12 hours, eight hours,” said Hammond, who said he recognizes Pokémon players have as much right to the parking spots as he does since it’s a public park. “It’s not like there is a fast turnover in parking spots.”
Hammond said he parked on the grass probably 10 times in the past four years without a problem, particularly on busy Thursday race nights at the sailing club.
“Is this just like a three-month craze with Pokémon or is it going to get worse because more people find out it’s a really good spot to go? Or are people not going to show up because they don’t want parking tickets?” Hammond asked.
Pokémon Go player Ziad Sami El-Zoor said he came back to his car Saturday night to find a double whammy — a ticket each for both parking on the side of the road and another for being there after 11 p.m. El-Zoor said there were no signs telling them they couldn’t park where they parked or that they’d be ticketed after 11 p.m. (There are no-parking signs along one side of the road leading to the parking lot and in the loop in front of the sailing club.)
Adam Girardi, 17, said he, too, got a ticket Monday. He said he figured other cars were parked on the grass, so he could as well.
“Everyone was parked there. There was no issue,” said Girardi. “If there was a sign there, I wouldn’t have parked.”
“Ottawa needs to lighten up a little bit,” added El-Zoor, a 30-year-old hair stylist.
“We’re not doing any harm. It’s a bunch of people getting together, playing a game.”
Scott Campbell, program manager of enforcement for bylaw, said the enforcement has nothing to do with Pokémon Go and everything to do with drivers not being able to just leave their cars wherever they want.
“It wouldn’t be green space if we just let them use it,” said Campbell. “You just can’t abandon it wherever you so choose.”
“I think it’s a bit of common sense,” he added. “If there was no spots on the street you wouldn’t necessarily park in somebody’s driveway, on the sidewalk or wherever just because you want to park.”
Campbell said a sign is only required warning drivers to not park on parkland after closing if the park closes at any time other than 11 p.m., when most parks typically close.
“It’s like on-street parking. There’s no signs for hydrants, there’s no signs for intersections, there’s no signs for driveways. They are rules that you are basically supposed to know,” he said. “These are the number of spaces and the number of vehicles the park can accommodate, and after that it’s just not free will to do what you wish.”
Campbell said officers received two complaints about people camping, smoking and drinking in the park. While they found none of those, they did find parking infractions. Campbell said the city routinely enforces parking in city parks, particularly on weekends.
Campbell said the city could also ticket people who remain in the park in general after 11 p.m. under a separate bylaw, although so far have been choosing to educate violators about the rules and asking them to leave.
Heather Erven, business manager at the Nepean Sailing Club, said co-existing with the Pokémon Go players has presented new challenges. The sailing club has already had to shut off its free Wi-Fi for members after Pokémon Go players figured out their password and crashed their Internet service. Pokémon Go players have also started appearing in their lobby looking to charge their devices and parked in dedicated spots reserved for vehicles with boat trailers that need a special permit.
But Erven said Pokémon Go players have every right to use the public park. The sailing club leases the building from the city.
Erven said the number of Pokémon Go players who routinely gather at the park is “quite impressive.”
“They are people who never would have seen Dick Bell Park. However, are we benefitting from it? No. Not at all,” she said.
Erven said they’ve asked the city for better signage. In a memo to club members, the management said they are trying to get tickets for parking overnight reversed.
Campbell said one of his supervisors was meeting with the sailing club Tuesday.
Campbell said the sailing club has an exemption for members parking past 11 p.m., since they have a lease with the city, and bylaw is working with the club to find a way to identify member’s vehicles.