If you’ve noticed a tall black man in a khaki uniform walking circles in Rittenhouse Square day after day, that would be the new ranger. The Friends of Rittenhouse Square hired him in July to patrol the park five days a week.
“Things were getting so crazy,” notes Friends president Betsy Hummel, who recently replaced longtime president Wendy Rosen. “We had bands, then the tightrope walkers, people climbing the trees, people playing ball.”
Wait, what’s wrong with playing ball? I mean, Cliff Lee played Wiffle Ball in the Square last month.
Explains Hummel: “Rittenhouse Square is considered a non-recreational park. There’s not really any ball playing allowed in the park. That said, it’s okay to see little kids playing. But pickup football games between 20 year olds is a different story.”
She continues: “The park is too crowded to handle that kind of thing. We were supposed to have brand new signs up by now posting all of the rules, but there were delays … No amplified music, no solicitation, don’t attach anything to trees, no bike riding, no skateboarding.”
And definitely no tightrope walking!
“Listen, this is a public park, and everyone wants to use it,” acknowledges Hummel. “But you have to draw the line as to what’s acceptable. When you look the other way one place, then someone is abusing it on the other side.”
But what of the dreadful tightrope walking? Does anyone even know what she’s talking about? Is she referring to slackline yoga?
What about the homeless?
“He’s definitely been able to help with the homeless a bit,” says Hummel. “Well, the ones who were problematic.”
The ranger, who is unarmed, does not make arrests or deal with outright criminal behavior, saving those tasks for the police, with whom he is in direct contact. And he also only works days, since, Hummel explains, a nighttime ranger is just too cost prohibitive, even for the city’s wealthiest Zip code.
So, tightrope walkers, either take up post-dusk tightrope walking or wait until October, when the ranger goes on hiatus until April.