Philip Edge doesn’t want to come down too hard on the kids, as they are at least getting outside and getting somewhat active, pursuing their Pokemon Go goals.
But there’s a time and a place for everything and Maple Ridge Cemetery isn’t one of them.
Over the past few weeks, the cemetery on Dewdney Trunk Road has become busier, particularly when the gates close to motorists after 4 p.m., and people amble into the cemetery grounds with smartphone in hand, eyes glued to the screen, trying to catch a Pokemon.
By bringing their cellphone within reach, players can “catch” a Pokemon, add to their points, and keep playing the game that melds the physical and virtual world.
The gatherings of Pokemon Go players, though, are crowding out the usual visitors who come to the cemetery for peace and reflection.
Edge regularly visits his family’ resting place in the cemetery and says crowds of kids are gathering beneath the two huge trees at the entrance.
That’s intimidating for the older folks who he now sees making wide detours to avoid the groups.
“I don’t mean any ill-will to the young people,” Edge says.
He just wants them to go to a more appropriate place.
“They’re walking all over with disregard to where they’re walking,” he adds, demonstrating the gait of a Pokemon player, arm stretched out as they walk, seemingly entranced in the virtual world.
“Because they’re so focused on their little groups, I’m surprised they don’t walk into a tree.”
Sometimes that leads them to walking where they shouldn’t walk, such as on headstones.
“There’s something about the program that seems to be overwhelming them … nothing else around them matters.”
On Sunday, Edge was leaving the cemetery, passing by one such group when a Rottweiler lunged at him.
“I had to stop in my tracks.”
He had to tell the dog’s owner to control his pet, while the owner held the cellphone in one hand and the leash in the other.
On Tuesday night, about 25 people were inside the gates.
“I thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’”
Edge says people now are showing up later in the evening and pot and music are in the air.
“There’s a lot of people around, almost until 10 o’clock.”
According to the grounds keeper at Maple Ridge Cemetery, the people who come through playing the game during the daytime are behaving and are from all age groups. However, he’s not there after hours.
Edge has written to Maple Ridge city council and contacted Ridge Meadows RCMP.
Coun. Bob Masse said that he’d like council to discuss it to see if anything can be done. Council’s only received one complaint on the issue.
“To me, a cemetery is off limits to good taste and respectfulness. I think cemeteries, churches, synagogues, hospitals, hospices, come to mind,” Masse said.
But a few of his chiropractic patients say they like the game.
Maybe someone in the city’s information technology can do something, he added.
Not everything in society is majority rules, said Masse.
“We have to respect the minority, if it is a minority, of people who think cemeteries are sacred ground. You just don’t go there.”
Last week, teenager who arranged to play the virtual reality game Pokemon Go with a stranger at a North Delta park claims she was sexually assaulted last week.
Vancouver city police have already responded by issuing a new release Wednesday, offering safety-related advice.
“The groups appear to be searching for something, many holding cell phones in the air, while others appear to be in a zombie-like state, eyes glued to their phones as they walk down the street, or ride their bikes and skateboards,” police said.
Parents are urged to remind their kids about some basic safety tips:
• look up and be aware of one’s surroundings, to avoid stepping into traffic or crashing into someone or something;
• search in groups, as strangers may know your gathering spots, and young children should advise parents or another adult of planned destinations;
• avoid distracted game play that involves riding a bike, skateboard, scooter or driving a car;
• stick to public space and avoid private property;
The Vancouver Police’s last bit of advice: “Stay safe and have fun catching Pokemon.”