The city of Portland wants Pokemon Go gone from Evergreen Cemetery.

City officials are asking the software company Niantic, a subsidiary of Google, to remove the coveted icons sought by players of the augmented reality game from the 239-acre cemetery and park off Stevens Avenue.

Pokemon Go was launched three years ago and was wildly popular, with players staring into their phone screens while wandering around parks and other public spaces trying to collect the virtual characters and icons.

The game uses a phone’s GPS, camera and augmented reality technology, so as a player who has downloaded the app moves somewhere in a town or city, the player’s avatar is shown on the touch screen moving through the same landscape, guided by a map showing all the Pokemon characters in the vicinity. As the player moves around the real world, Pokémon characters can appear in the game world standing right in front of the player. Sometimes, groups of people gather in a specific location in hopes of making certain icons appear.

Pokemon Go players use cellphones to find characters and icons like these in Evergreen Cemetery. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The craze led to immediate requests that some public spaces be removed from the game. Those tensions faded along with the initial popularity of the game, but there are still plenty of players determined to find Pokemon, and Portland officials have taken notice.

Ethan Hipple, Portland’s deputy director of parks, recreation and facilities, said the staff made the request to remove Evergreen from the game this spring because of concerns about distracted drivers in the historic cemetery. One driver in particular has not heeded the city’s repeated warnings not to hunt for the virtual critters while driving on the narrow roads between rows of monuments.

“Thankfully, we never actually had any accidents with her, but there were a lot of close calls with pedestrians and headstones,” Hipple said.

Evergreen Cemetery in Portland is a spot where Pokemon Go players search for icons. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The city has placed three criminal trespass orders against the 58-year-old driver, according to Richard Bianculli, the city’s neighborhood prosecutor. The city lifted the second trespass order, issued on June 16, 2017, after a few days under the condition that she not drive in the park, Bianculli said. But the woman violated that condition in February, so another six-month trespass order was placed on her.

After that, the city reached out to the gamemaker in an effort to get the icons removed.

Niantic did not respond to an interview request for this story, and data was not immediately available about the current number of players who have downloaded the app.

Pokemon Go exploded into the gaming world in 2016, bringing location-based augmented reality to the masses. Users download the app and then head outdoors and try to find Pokemon characters and icons.

Shortly after its release, concerns were raised about public safety, since people were playing more attention to their phones than their surroundings. And Pokemon players have been asked to stay out of some public areas, including Arlington Cemetery and the U.S. Holocaust Museum in the Washington, D.C., area.

The buzz surrounding the game has died down, but it remains popular among die-hard fans.

Three years after the game launched, Hipple said the city staff continues to see people occasionally driving through the park looking for Pokemon characters and icons, but most comply with the city’s request to only search for the icons on foot.

This spring, the city asked the software company to remove the icons from Evergreen, which has a network of paved roads that Hipple said lends itself to distracted-driving gamers. Hipple said the request is still being reviewed.

“It’s very obvious when someone is doing it,” he said. “They hold their phone up in front of their face while driving.”

Hipple said the city has no problem with the game icons at other city parks. In fact, they welcome it, as long as players are not behind the wheel.

“We love that because it activates the park and brings people out who may not come out otherwise,” Hipple said. “The problem is people get so excited about the game, they will try to do it while driving and it’s meant to be played on foot.”

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