Pikachu comin’ through

Pokémon Go fever is running hot in Chico, including Bidwell Park

Riding my bike through Bidwell Park may never be the same. OK, that’s an exaggeration. But I realized last week that something was different when a teenager on his bike nearly plowed into me on one of the trails in Lower Park. The object of his distraction: Pokémon Go, that new game beloved by those who played the original Game Boy versions as kids, as well as many others, including your average everyday Chicoan under the age of, say, 45.

Based on what I’ve seen, other than being relatively young, it’s impossible to peg the average devotee. That kid who came close to running straight into me was probably in high school. I moved out of his way, but because he was looking down at the game on his cellphone and didn’t see me coming, he swerved back into my path. That’s when I yelled, “Hey, Pokémon!”

It worked. The kid looked up, shot me a knowing and slightly embarrassed smile and, most important to this park-goer, moved out of the way. My husband, Matt, has since come up with a better warning: “Pikachu comin’ through!”

Since Pokémon Go launched back on July 6, the park has most definitely become one of the hotspots in town. On any given day, there are dozens—sometimes hundreds—of players there. When Matt and I ride through in the early evenings with our 4-year-old in tow, the northwest corner of Caper Acres is especially dense with Poképhiles. We’ve seen upward of 60 or so people gathered there—many of whom hang out in small groups—searching for whatever it is one looks for when playing the game. CN&R intern Mason Masis tells me the area near the fairytale-themed playground is the site of a Pokémon Gym and some PokéStops, for what it’s worth (see his write-up on page 10).

I’ve heard a lot about how the game is getting people outdoors. Sure, that’s great. But from what I’ve seen, most of the folks playing in the park are glued to their screens. They’re not exactly taking in nature. Still, for those who would ordinarily be sitting on the couch at home, a trip to a park seems like a healthy change of pace.

My only frustration with Pokémon Go is having to dodge people who aren’t paying attention to their surroundings. That close encounter in the park I described is one of at least a half-dozen I’ve had there in the past few weeks.

In truth, I’m happy to share the space. Bidwell Park is beautiful and full of natural wonders. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the jumping oak gall wasp eggs that are everywhere. The other night, a Cooper’s hawk flew right over my head. That’s right after Matt pointed out a lone carp that swims in the same spot near the bridge over Sycamore Pool each day. I hope Pokémon Go users stop and appreciate what the greenway has to offer.

Update time. I’m happy to report that the elderly Paradise resident I wrote about a few weeks ago has found a new place to live. She sent me a sweet note this week sharing the good news. Thank you to all of CN&R’s readers who wrote in and called to try to help her.