Humans Behaving Badly
Baldwin Park, our neighborhood gathering place, is beautiful, clean, and safe. And as a Friend of Matthias Baldwin Park (thank you!), your eyes and ears in the Park help keep it that way. When you speak with the paid security guards at Rittenhouse Square and at Sister Cities Park, you learn that they have no enforcement power. They are unarmed, even with pepper spray, and their job is to educate park visitors about the rules and report to the police if someone is a recurrent violator of the rules. Their job is observe, educate, and report. When you speak with Friends at other parks, they say that the park rules are enforced by peer pressure, basically observe, educate, and if necessary report. Some of these parks are in tight-knit neighborhoods, and the neighbors take pride in their local park and will speak up. Baldwin Park is fortunate to have many dues-paying members, and one would like to think of this group as a tight-knit neighborhood protector of Baldwin Park. Peer pressure is priceless. Here are some violations of the rules and some tips found useful in dealing with violators.
First, a disclaimer. There are certain violations that we hope nobody ever sees, like these priority items: used syringes, drug vials, used condoms, used tampons, broken glass, and used toilet paper, all fortunately rare and quickly removed. None of us want to wake up to that scene. The following images are examples of the types of behaviors that you should be alert for.
The first image shows a park bench without the metal divider that is supposed to be there. Someone, presumably a group of someones, removed the divider arms from all 27 benches in the Park during the night of September 1. These arms each weigh 20 pounds, and cost $220 to replace, but fortunately we were able to retrieve all 27 arms. The cost of vandal-resistant attachment hardware will run us about $270. The police were notified and pictures of suspects given to them.
The disposal of household trash in Park garbage cans is against the law, punishable by fine. It fills up the Park garbage cans, which are intended for Park-generated trash, and leads to a mess from overflow. Weighty items placed in the garbage cans also make it hard for the sanitation crew to empty the cans from the steel frame. The following image shows an extreme abuse. Three bags of used kitty litter, each weighing about ten pounds, are displayed in front of a trash can. The person who disposed of them in the Park left one per can, and there were two more in trash cans that were too disgusting to remove for posing. If you see someone carrying trash from outside the Park and depositing it in the Park trash cans, feel free, if you are comfortable doing so, to educate these miscreants. If you don't feel comfortable, feel free to take a photo and send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Three 10-pound bags of used kitty litter. Two others remain in trash cans. They are all the same kitty litter and all double-bagged, suggesting a single offender. Either this person has a lot of cats or has a mountain lion in her condo. The perpetrator was confronted in the act by one of the Friends and asked, for the second time, not to put household trash in the Park trash cans.
Leaving food in the Park, or feeding the wildlife, is against the law. In 2019 we had a terrible rat infestation of the Park, and food in the Park attracts rats. Likewise, if you have food mixed in with your takeout trash, please wrap it thoroughly so as not to make it too easy for our rodent friends. If you see someone feeding the animals or leaving food behind, and you feel comfortable, educate them. If you are uncomfortable speaking up, take a picture of the offender and send it to the website email.
Not sure who these noodle dishes are for if not for the rats. These are being left in the middle of the night.
Hiding the food scraps from human eyes is of no benefit in preventing a rat infestation. This rice dish is placed among the rock plinths.
Alright, this next one is just a pet peeve. If you have ever seen old horror movies, you know that those half-decayed zombies still have their full heads of hair. Hair sticks around a long time. It takes a long time to decompose. If you have seen hair strewn around a sink basin, you also know that it can be gross to look at. Similarly, brushing your dog and throwing the accumulated hair on the ground is uncivilized. It doesn't go away until someone picks it up. It is littering and is against the law. If you see someone throwing animal fur over their shoulders in the Park...well you know what to do, educate or photo.
Portion of fur collection
There are multiple signs in the Park stating to stay off the walls and planting beds. The walls are mostly mortar-less, which was the look designed into artist Athena Tachs's Connections. When people sit, stand, walk on, or do step-up exercises on the wall, these stones are loosened and have to be reaffixed. Though there is no City ordinance specifically against being on the wall or in the planting beds, destruction of Park property is against the law. When asking someone to stay off the wall or planting bed, point to the sign and ask the offender if that is good enough or do they need the list of reasons. Most apologize and remove themselves. However, the rare apprentice anarchist will want the specific reasons, so here is a list:
Plants are alive and suffer when people step on them. The plants are adjacent to the stones. The Friends of Matthias Baldwin Park spent $6,000 in 2019 and $3500 in 2020 to replace plants that had died. You love plants, right?
The wall stones are not completely mortared in place, as the artist intended. Stepping or sitting on the stones in the wall loosens them and makes them fall out. The Friends spend time and money gluing down loosened stones.
If someone sees you climbing in the beds or on the walls, they may think it's OK to do it too. And it's not.
Don't tell anyone this, but there are rat traps in the raised beds. There is poison in those traps, and sometimes the rats pull the poison pouches out, rip them apart, and spill the poison in the beds. The smaller the person or dog, the more susceptible they are to the poison.
The small pebbles and stones in the landscaping beds are meant to stay there. When children throw the stones onto the paths, they are a tripping hazard for some of our older Park visitors. Worse, when the stones get into the grass, they are potential missiles when the grounds crew mow the lawn.
This last arrow may be best held in your quiver until you get a sense of the violators willingness to accept the reasons. Humans crap around the stone plinths, and that deposit is gradually washing down into the surrounding pebbles with every rainfall.
Adhesive on stone to be reattached.
It was suggested above that this article would not show any graphic images, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, or at least a thousand huffs of indignation. If you see someone defecating in the Park, call 911. Don't use the word "homeless" in any description of the offender, because that is immaterial to the illegal activity. All City parks, including Baldwin Park, are closed from 10 pm to 7 am. If someone is settling in for the night after 10 pm, call 911. The police want to be called for this situation.
Early morning scene after someone's early morning ritual: have a beverage, read the morning Inquirer, and then take a dump next to the tree.
Toilet paper has been removed from around these specimens. These will gradually be eaten by flies and washed away by rain.
There are human feces around some of the rock plinths, another reason to warn parents about letting their kids play among the rocks.
One of the most common violations of City ordinance in the Park is off-leash dogs. All dogs must be on a leash of no longer than six feet everywhere in Philadelphia, unless the dogs are on the owner's property or in a dog park. This rule applies to service dogs as well. There is a dog park two blocks up 19th Street on Green Street, and another dog park will be coming just north of the Franklin Institute on the Parkway. Again, educate or photo. Tell owners that many people are afraid of dogs, sometimes from a violent attack as a child. These people are afraid to come into the Park when they see an off-leash dog. They can't tell which dogs are under verbal control or "nice dogs" just by looking from outside the Park. We want to be welcoming to everyone, and therefore please leash your dog. Dogs can be triggered by unpredictable incidents, people, or dog breeds, and cause injuries. Also mention that it is the law. Educate or photo. Same applies to dog owners who fail to clean up their dog's poop.
This woman walked past the sign indicated by the arrow to rest on the wall and let her dog lounge on the lariope in the planting bed. The sign is seen in the photo at right.
This may come as a shock to dog owners, but many people do not like dogs. Some of it is individual. Some of it is cultural. In this age of respect for the individual and multiculturalism, please be aware that you dog may be perceived as a threat, a filthy animal akin to a rat, or a carrier of disease. I know: shocking! But true. So be considerate of others.