A new report says Philadelphia’s national parks generated $196 million for the city in 2013 — being the birthplace of American democracy, turns out, can be somewhat lucrative.
The old Independence Visitor Center, constructed by the National Park Service for the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, has not been receiving a lot of love in recent years. A replacement on Independence Mall opened in 2001, rendered the old building basically obsolete; and about a decade ago, the Bicentennial bell housed in the center’s bell tower broke and was never repaired. Now the building is being demolished to make room for the planned Museum of the American Revolution, and no one, as far as I can tell, seems to really mind.
The building’s architect, Peter Chermayeff, doesn’t either. “I’m not surprised that the building is being replaced, because I don’t think of it as very strong or a very important piece of contemporary architecture,” he said when informed of the demolition. “I’m not terribly sorry to hear that it’s going.”
The 42-year-old Portuguese man who was arrested in January for allegedly threatening to park officials that he was going to blow up the Liberty Bell was acquitted by a Court of Common Pleas judge yesterday.
The judge, Diana Anhalt, believed Carlos Balsas’s story that he had explained to park officials when they tried to search his back that he had a “bunch of exclusives,” not explosives.
Update (10:15 a.m.)
Independence National Historical Park–aka the Liberty Bell and friends–will re-open gradually today, according to park ranger Adam Duncan, who handles public affairs.
The great thing about government shutdowns it that they bring people together. If you go to Independence Mall today—or any day for the foreseeable future—you’ll notice large groups of people standing around on the grass, talking to one another. How nice. These are people who came for the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, or the Independence Hall Visitor Center–all of which are closed. In fact, if you want to play a sadistic parlor game, go linger by the entrances of any one of these places, wait for unsuspecting tourists to pull fruitlessly at the doors, and then–preferably leaning against a wall, with a toothpick in your mouth–say, ‘Closed, pal.’
So, you may be wondering, what does the coming government shutdown mean for Philadelphia? Well, a wide swath of federal workers will be furloughed beginning at midnight tonight, and Philly’s got quite a few of them, from Social Security Administration workers to Department of Justice employees working at the 2nd District courthouse. But while it’s unclear exactly how the shutdown will affect all those employees, there is one thing we do know for sure: All 401 U.S. National Parks will be shut down tomorrow, including Independence National Historic Park, which employs around 200 people. I.e, The freaking Liberty Bell will be closed. As will freaking Independence Hall. (Also: Valley Forge National Park.) Tourists, get ready to get your kicks by staring thoughtfully at the facade of the Second Bank of the United States.
The marijuana menace apparently has not yet been eradicated from out fair city. On Sunday, radical group of protestors, united under the “Smoke Down Prohibition” banner, marched from LOVE Park to Independence National Historical Park for a moment of so-called “cannabis reflection” at 4:20. But don’t be fooled: These folks were doing marijuanas.
Organized by Ed Forchion, popularly known as “NJ Weedman,” the Panic Hour, this past Smoke Down Prohibition was the sixth in a series; a previous protest netted several notable arrests about a month ago. But the righteous whip of the Drug War hasn’t deterred these dopers, and at this demonstration police merely ticketed seven attendees. Oddly enough, though, there have been no reports of insanity or lawless violence at the hands of the loco weed, but give it time. There is, after all, a good reason why marijuana is illegal. Right? [Philly.com]
UPDATE: Ed Forchion did not organize the event, he merely promoted it as indicated in the comment thread below.
Eds, meds, and…tourism. That basically sums up Philly’s 21st century economy. But how many tourists really show up? How much do they bring in? And who are they all? Well, the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation has answers, courtesy of its annual report.
- Since 1997, Philly’s experienced a 45% growth in visitation. 38 million American tourists showed up last year, 12 million more than in ’97.
- 89,000 regional jobs are supported by tourist dollars.
- 7 new hotels are currently being built.
- $410 in annual taxes are saved by region households thanks to tourist dollars.
And here’s the profile of Mr. Average Philadelphia tourist: He’s 44, married, makes $85,000 a year and isn’t bringing the kids for the weekend. Why the growth in tourism? Well, just check out this unintentionally (I think) hilarious infographic the report has prepared for us:
On Sunday, a large group of pot activists assembled on Independence Mall to give a middle-finger to an apparently apathetic U.S. federal government. A video was posted today documenting the collective joint hit, which went unpunished by the National Park Service. Philly’s got relatively lenient pot laws, but the U.S. government doesn’t, and they were protesting on federal property. And yet, after they had lit up, and the cloud of smoke had dissipated, no one had been arrested. One activist with a video camera even marched over to confront the park ranger, and seemed disappointed to get indifference. No word on whether a lone smoker lighting up on a summer weekend day would fare so well. As the ranger said (at about the 3:00 mark) it’s a matter of “officer discretion.”