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Parks rules and regulations

Last updated: 7/14/16

Parks rules and regulations

Below, you can find the official rules and regulations for public parks and other public places, including boundary roads and parkways, under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Commission.

Still have questions? Contact:
Parks and Recreation
1010 Massachusetts Avenue
3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02118
United States

Section 1

No person shall, in any public park (including any boundary road thereof), or other public place (including any parkway) under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission: 

(a) abuse or annoy another; or 

(b) beg or canvass for alms; or 

(c) break any bottle or other article of glass: or 

(d) drop or place and suffer to remain, except in a receptacle provided for the purpose, any bottle, can, paper or other thing, or 

(e) make any public speech or distribute free or for a price any printed matter in the Public Garden or in, or within twenty-five feet of the Frog Pond in the Boston Common or in such portions of the public parks and other public places under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission as are from time to time specially set apart for the playing of games and athletic contests, or 

(f) enter, or remain in, any public park between the hours of 11:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. on any day except for the purpose of going through such park on the walks or malls thereof unless specific request is made for a particular facility, written to the Commissioner, and brought before the Commission and approved. The Parks Commissioner can postpone or cancel events due to inclement weather or public safety. 

(g) Have in his or her possession any intoxicating liquor.

Section 2

No person shall, in any public park (including any boundary road thereof), or other public place (including any parkway) under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission, except under the auspices of public authority: 

(a) sit, stand or lie upon, or climb upon or over, any balustrade, railing, fence, wall, roof, statue, monument, fountain, bush or tree; or 

(b) go under any balustrade, railing or fence, or 

(c) stand or lie upon any seat; or 

(d) go upon any flower bed or cultivated area; or 

(e) dig up, cut, break, remove, deface, defile, or take any tree, bush, plant, turf, rock, gravel, building, structure, fence, railing, sign or other thing connected with such park of place; or 

(f) disturb any bird's nest or eggs; or 

(g) injure or have possession of any wild animal or bird; or 

(h) set any trap or snare, or 

(i) throw any stone or other missile; or 

(j) drop or place and suffer to remain a lighted match, cigarette, cigar or other burning substance; or 

(k) have or discharge any firecracker or fireworks; or 

(l) discharge any firearm or destructive weapon; or 

(m) have in any such park or place, except a boundary road or parkway on which there are dwellings, any firearm or destructive weapon; or 

(n) go on foot on any drive or bridle path except to go directly across from the walk to another; or 

(o) sit, stand or lie upon lawn areas in the Public Garden except such lawn areas designated as sitting areas.

Section 3

No person shall, in any public park (including any boundary road thereof), or other public place (including any parkway) under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission, except under the auspices of public authority or in a place especially set apart for the purpose by the Parks and Recreation Commission: 

(a) have or allow any animal, except a dog on a leash no longer than eight feet, or cat under proper control; or walk a dog in a designated Dog Free Zone; or 

(b) have, ride, or drive any vehicle except a wheelchair, baby carriage or other like vehicle; or 

(c) moor or use a boat or raft; or 

(d) skate, or coast with a sled; or 

(e) use a bicycle, scooter, roller skates, skateboard or the like; or 

(f) play ball or any other game or sport; or 

(g) run in a race; or 

(h) bathe or swim; or 

(i) fish; or 

(j) make a fire; or 

(k) have or allow any animal, including a cat or dog, with the exception of a seeing eye dog for a blind or handicapped person, on a leash, within the boundaries of the Public Garden, or

(l) play golf or hit golf balls.

Section 4

No person shall be at any outdoor swimming pool under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission, or upon any beach under its control, or in or upon the waters of any such pool or beach, unless he is so clothed that his body is not indecently exposed; and no person shall dress or undress at any such swimming pool or beach except in a place especially set apart for the purpose by the Parks and Recreation Commission; and no person over the age of twelve years shall wade or bathe in, or make any use of the waters in the Frog Pond in the Boston Common.

Section 5

No person shall have or allow on any bridle path in any public park or other public place under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission any horse except a well broken horse, and no person shall race or gallop any horse on any such bridle path; and horses shall not be let or ridden on any such bridle path more than two abreast.

Section 6

No person shall, in any public park (including any boundary road thereof) or other public place (including any parkway) under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission; unless under a lease or concession granted under Chapter 365 of the Acts of 1897, and unless a written permit be on their person or prominently displayed, engage in any commercial enterprise or solicit business or display or distribute any commercial advertising matter; nor shall any person, except in accordance with a written permit from the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, have or drive in or on any such park or place (or boundary road or parkway) any vehicle having a seating capacity of more than eight passengers. 

Section 7

No person in any public park (including boundary road thereof) or other public place (including any parkway) under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission shall fail to comply with any reasonable direction given by any police officer or by any Parks and Recreation Department employee or contained in any notice posted by the Parks and Recreation Department. 

Section 8

 No person shall place any snow or ice removed from private property upon any sidewalk or roadway of any boundary road of a public park or of any parkway under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission; nor shall the owner or tenant of an estate abutting on any sidewalk suffer any snow to remain on such sidewalk for more than three hours between sunrise and sunset or suffer any ice to so remain unless such ice is made even and covered with sand, sawdust or ashes to prevent slipping. 

Section 9

No person shall drive any vehicle upon any sidewalk of any boundary road of a public park or of any parkway under the control of the Parks and Recreation Commission except in accordance with a written permit from the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation. In places where vehicle use is permitted, no person shall ride in excess of five miles per hour, except where specifically designated.

Section 10

Whoever violates any provision of section seven of these rules shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty dollars for each offense; and whoever violates any other provision of these rules shall be punished by a fine or not more than fifty dollars for each offense. 

Public Grounds

16-19.1 Use of Public Grounds

No person shall, in or upon the Common, Public Garden, or other public grounds of the City, walk, stand, or sit upon the grass, or upon any land planted or prepared for planting or upon a fountain, monument, or statue, or a bandstand, wall, fence, or other structure, or within the basin of a pond otherwise than upon ice, or stand or lie upon a bench or sleep thereon, except that the Mayor may from time to time by proclamation and order permit walking, standing, and lying upon the grassed land of the Common or designated part thereof, or the grassed land of any other public grounds or any other designated part thereof, except the Public Garden, for such days or parts of such days as he shall specify; and he may in like manner by proclamation and order permit sleeping on such days as he shall specify, on any of the benches and any of the grassed lands of the Common or other public grounds, except the Public Garden. Nothing contained in this subsection or in Subsection 16-19.4 of this section shall be held to prohibit the doing of any act in the reasonable performance of his work or employment by any person acting under the authority or direction of any Board or Officer in charge of any of the places described in this subsection. (CBC 1975 Ord. T14 § 340; Ord. 1977 c. 11)

16-19.2   Public Addresses, Vending, Etc.

No person shall, in any of the public grounds, use any device intended to amplify or broadcast sound using a megaphone, loud speaker, or any other amplification device, expose for sale goods, wares, or merchandise, erect or maintain a booth, stand, tent, or apparatus for purposes of public amusement or show, except in accordance with a permit from the Mayor, providing, however, that such permit shall be in addition to any other license or permit required by law, and that when such use is for commercial purposes, or where admission to an event, show, exhibition, amusement or the like is restricted to those making a payment of consideration, which shall include payment, donation or contribution of money or a thing of value, or surrender of a ticket, voucher, token or the like, obtained by purchase, for value, or as result of a donation or contribution, or the like, the fee shall be that specified in Subsection 18-1.16(35) hereof, and provided that when the portion of the public ground to be used is within the Common, the Public Garden, or, more than five hundred (500) persons are expected to view or attend the same simultaneously and the same is within one thousand (1,000) feet of any dwelling house, such permit shall be invalid unless approved by the City Council. (CBC 1975 Ord. T14 § 341; Ord. 1977 c. 10; Ord. 1982 c. 40 § 2)

16-19.3 Permit for Use of Park Land for Demonstrations

No person or organization shall hold or sponsor a demonstration, as herein defined, upon park land unless a permit therefore has first been obtained from the Commissioner of Parks and Recreation. The Commissioner shall honor all requests for such permits, except that the Commissioner may specify the time, place and manner of the demonstration in order to accommodate competing demands for public use of park land and to protect the public safety and convenience. The permit shall require that the permittee be responsible for restoration, rehabilitation and cleanup of the park land which is the subject of the permit. The term “demonstration” shall include demonstrating, picketing, speechmaking, marching, holding of vigils and all other like forms of conduct which involve the communication or expression of views or grievances engaged in by one or more persons, the conduct of which has the effect, intent or propensity to attract a substantial crowd of onlookers or participants. The term “demonstration” shall not include casual park land use which does not have the intent and propensity to attract a substantial crowd of onlookers or participants.

As a condition of permit issuance, the Commissioner shall require in the nature of a fee the filing of a bond with a satisfactory surety payable to the Department of Parks and Recreation in an amount sufficient, as determined by the Commissioner, to cover costs of restoration, rehabilitation and cleanup of the park land which is the subject of the permit. In lieu of a bond, the permittee may elect to deposit cash equal to the amount of the required bond. Any amount not actually used to restore or rehabilitate the park land shall be returned to the permittee. Whoever violates any provision of this section shall be punished by a fine of three hundred ($300.00) dollars, and shall be liable for the cost of restoration, rehabilitation and cleanup of the park land used for the demonstration and the reasonable costs of collection of the fee.
(Ord. 1983 c. 26 § 1)

16-19.4  Profanity and Other Offenses

No person shall, in the Common, Public Garden, or other public grounds of the City, annoy another person; or utter profane, threatening, abusive, obscene, or indecent language or loud outcry; or do any obscene or indecent act; or have possession of, drink, or be under the influence of, intoxicating liquor; or play any game of chance or have possession of any instrument of gambling; or dig up, cut, break, deface, defile, ill-use, handle, take or remove any turf, flower, plant, bush, tree, rock, sign, fence, structure or other thing or part thereof belonging to the City; or cut, break, or remove the ice in or from a pond; or drive an animal, or suffer an animal in his charge to feed or go at large, except dogs on the Common; or propel any vehicle, except a vehicle pushed or drawn by hand and designed to convey children; or throw a stone or other missile; or injure or have possession of a fish, bird, or wild animal; or injure or disturb a bird's nest or eggs; or set a trap or snare; or drop or place and suffer to remain paper or other refuse, except in receptacles designated therefor.