Philly and Urban Camping: Perfect Together

S'mores along the Schuylkill! C'mon, everybody!

This is the third year in a row that we won’t be taking a family vacation. The hiatus is partially due to kids with complicated schedules, but mostly due to finances. Now that we’re paying so much more for groceries, heating oil and gas, a week’s getaway in Maine or North Carolina is out of our reach.

Maybe that’s why I latched onto this piece in the Wall Street Journal about a new campground in Brooklyn, New York—and I mean in Brooklyn. Run by the National Park Service, it’s on the site of an old, unused airstrip, and cost only $63,000 to equip with fire rings, picnic tables and grills. For $20 a night, an entire family can stay just a short subway ride from all the delights of the Big Apple.

This is an idea we should borrow, right now.

There’s plenty of unclaimed and underused space in Philly that we could develop for urban camping. Imagine towing your trailer down to Penn’s Landing, or erecting a tent in Roosevelt Park. Campers might not pay for expensive hotel rooms, but they’d help fill our restaurants, visit our attractions, and buy eggs and milk and hot dogs in our grocery stores. Urban camping would draw in families and young people from around the world who couldn’t afford to visit us any other way.

Investment would be minimal, and heaven only knows we could use the jobs that would be created setting up such campgrounds. In fact, they’d offer great opportunities for unemployed young people with too much time on their hands. It doesn’t take a ton of skills to build a fire ring.

We did a lot of camping when I was a kid, and I remember fondly the special camaraderie that a community of campers shares. It seems a natural match for the City of Brotherly Love. So how about it, Mayor Nutter, City Council? Why don’t we get together and pitch some tents?