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National Park Rangers Will Help You Hunt Pokémon On The National Mall

The Washington Monument is the hottest Pokémon Go club — OK, gym — in D.C.

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As the Pokémon Go craze hit the nation's capital this weekend, park rangers began to realize that it could be an opportunity.

"We're finding that there are thousands of people coming to the National Mall, to play this game, to collect Pokémon, and we know they’re going all over the place — which is great, they’re coming to the park and they’re experiencing that," Paul Ollig, the chief of interpretation and education for the National Mall and Memorial Parks, told BuzzFeed News on Monday.

The National Park Service, he said, wants "to help people to understand a little more about the place that they’re coming to play this game."

For example, the German-American Friendship Garden is a Pokéstop, he said, "but it doesn't really tell you what that is, it doesn't tell you why it's here, why it was built, what you can do here. So, that's our opportunity to broaden people's understanding of these sites."

Which is where Ollig got the idea of rangers going around playing Pokémon Go with visitors.

"By talking about it, and actually participating in this with people, it enables us to help guide the experience — so it’s not just somebody out here at the Washington Monument catching a Zubat, it is a ranger walking around with somebody, talking about the Washington Monument," he said.

In the course of the short walk from the Washington Monument to the garden, Ollig and another park ranger, Zach Whitlow, ran into several people playing Pokémon Go.

Tyler and Kim told Ollig they came down from West Howard County in Maryland to the National Mall to look for Pokémon "until it's too hot, pretty much."

The game has, however, created one possibility that has raised concern for the rangers — people playing Pokémon Go in places that they don't see as appropriate for gaming.

Chris Geidner/BuzzFeed

"There are some places in national parks, all over the country, but even here in D.C. on the National Mall, where it may not be appropriate to play Pokémon Go," Ollig said. "For instance, at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial — a place that is designed to be a site of solemn reflection — probably not the best place to go chasing after a Pokémon."

He also pointed to the chamber at the Jefferson Memorial and people going into the water of the World War II Memorial as places not appropriate for Pokémon Go and noted that tours led by rangers would allow them to "guide the entire group in a direction that has a narrative that we are interested in having people learn more about."

Going forward, Ollig said, "if you see a ranger who looks like they are engaged in it, or if you see a group going on a tour with a ranger, join in." He also said to be sure to check out the National Mall and Memorial Parks' Facebook page for more information about guided tours in the future.

"You can catch some Pokémon, you can learn about the sites and the memorials on the National Mall, and come back with a really meaningful experience," he said. "As long as you’re safe and respectful of other visitors, come on out here and catch as many as you can."

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.

Contact Chris Geidner at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com.

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