Rittenhouse Square park is afraid of pot so you can’t sit on the walls

It’s a warning for now, but police tell Billy Penn that fines are in the future.

Rittenhouse wall
Mark Dent/Billy Penn

Updated 5:30 p.m.

Visitors in Rittenhouse Square are now banned from sitting on the wall surrounding the inner fountain in the park — and it’s all because of pot.

“Due to continuous vandalism and marijuana smoking, City Officials, Parks and Recreation, City Police, and the Friends determined it was in the Park’s best interest to no longer allow people to sit on the balustrade,” said Jackie Whyte of Friends of Rittenhouse, the city-affiliated group that manages the Square. “Benches throughout the park are provided for people to sit.”

An officer working in Rittenhouse Square this afternoon confirmed the details. He said young people would too often sit on the wall, smoking marijuana and leaving litter in the nearby bushes.

The wall is a popular place for people to sit and eat lunch in Rittenhouse Square, particularly in the spring and summer months when little room is available on benches.

The Parks and Recreation department released a statement after the publishing of this article, saying the move was in response to “a recent uptick in vandalism on the historic balustrades,” which, according to the Parks Department, had received nearly $1 million in restoration work several years ago.

“Furthermore,” the statement reads, “the walls were not originally designed to be used for seating so this measure will further protect the structural integrity of these iconic park features.”

A spokesperson for Parks and Rec declined to answer questions about the process undertaken to make the rule change and whether the public had any opportunity for input or comment or any notification that sitting on the wall could be banned.

The officer said the signs were put up now so they could “nip it in the bud” (no pun intended, probably) by spring when more people are in the park. For now, people sitting on the wall are getting warnings. He said they could receive fines in the future.

The wall on the outer edge of the park, where bike messengers like to sit, is not off limits, according to the officer.

Whether people pay attention to the no sitting on the wall rule will remain to be seen. Today, it didn’t seem like people even noticed the new rule (or the police car next to the wall).

Rittenhouse square


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