SULTAN — Before cleaning up the park, they rallied to battle a Tyranitar.
The big, green, dinosaur-like Pokemon appeared on smartphone screens. People tapped their screens to take it down, playing a popular game that launched in 2016. Pokemon Go challenges players to capture digital characters, collect supplies and engage in virtual battles at real-world locations.
One such location is Sultan’s Osprey Park.
But six months ago, Pokemon weren’t the only items to be seen by players at the park.
“The first time we came here, there was garbage everywhere,” said Gavin Lasby, 13.
Brandon Lasby, Gavin’s father, helped start the Sky Valley Pokemoners, a group that has adopted Osprey Park and meets twice a month to pick up litter.
Lasby began playing Pokemon Go thanks to his son. One day, while playing the game with neighbor and friend Jason Moore, the men noticed an “Adopt a Park” sign.
“We use the park all the time,” Moore said. “And we’ve got people.”
They posted on Facebook, inviting local Pokemon players to help. Now, about a dozen — more in nice weather — gather every other weekend to clean around the parking lot, sports fields, play area and wooded trails near the Skykomish River.
“When we first started, it was pretty bad,” Brandon Lasby said. “It was like a time capsule. We started pulling out TaB (soda) cans. My kids were like, ‘What is this?’ ”
They use gloves and garbage grabbers to drop trash in bright yellow bags, which they leave for the city to pick up. They also keep track of graffiti. Moore has come out separately to sand away paint.
The park is so clean now, there’s not as much to do, Lasby said. The Pokemoners plan to adopt Main Street, too.
“It gets me out of the house,” Lasby said. “I feel better. The park looks great. But on the whole, we’re just a bunch of nerds. Nerds unite.”
Earlier this month, 16 people gathered on a sunny Saturday morning at the park. The group alternates Saturdays and Sundays to make cleanups possible for those who attend church or have other weekend commitments.
Mellissa Tabor was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed the Sky Valley Pokemoners after her first cleanup a few months ago. She’s been back most weekends since.
“We need more people out doing this,” she said. “So many parks need love. If only there was a little group like this for every park.”
Moore and Lasby said just about any group with a shared interest could adopt a park, street or trail, then spread the word on social media. It’s amazing how many people want to help, Moore said.
For Earth Day, Sultan was the only Washington city to be part of an international Pokemon Go event. There were dozens of locations around the world where players could volunteer, with in-game rewards for participation. It was such a busy day of coordinating and cleaning that Brandon Lasby never even played, he said.
He’s proud of the people who have joined him in turning their gaming into volunteering.
During a recent cleanup, near where a creek runs under a wooden bridge, Lasby recalled childhood fishing trips with his father. His dad always brought an extra empty bag. He would fill it with the trash he found while fishing.
“I remember asking, ‘Why do you do that?’ ” Lasby said. “He told me, ‘We always take out more than we take in.’ ”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; email@example.com.