Philadelphia May Allow People to Camp in City Parks During Pope Visit

Is this a good idea? Vote in our poll here.

With Pope Francis‘ visit to Philadelphia now just a few months away, there is a lot of information and misinformation coming from a variety of channels. There will be a pope fence… There won’t be a pope fence. We’re not sure about this pope fence business (and anyone that tells you that they are sure is full of it), but what we do know for certain is that the city is considering a plan to allow camping in some of its parks.

The city prohibits camping, which it defines as “erecting a tent, shelter or campsite,” in any area of the city’s park system. That would include pretty much any park other than the federally controlled parks, such as Independence Park (and we’re pretty sure that the feds aren’t going to want you camping there), the privately owned Liberty Lands Park in Northern Liberties, and Benjamin Rush State Park way up at the intersection of Southampton Road and Roosevelt Boulevard. And if you want to go camping in Northeast Philadelphia, more power to you.

But the city may decide to make an exception during the week of the pope’s visit, when millions are expected to show up to catch a glimpse of the pontiff when he attends the World Meeting of Families. After all, the hotels in the city have long been sold out, and there are only so many people who are going to Airbnb their homes. We’ve got to stick all these people somewhere.

Mark Focht, the city’s First Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Facilities, tells us that the city has been in discussions with representatives of the World Meeting of Families about the possibility of lifting the camping prohibition, at least for certain locations in the park system. “They are very interested in setting up organized camping locations,” says Focht. “What we’ve been talking about are organized sites with the supporting facilities that people need to camp.”

Focht wouldn’t elaborate on the sites that are under consideration, but says that he doesn’t expect that Rittenhouse Square will turn into a mini tent city. City Hall spokesman Mark McDonald says that no final decision has been made yet and that the city is “examining all contingencies.”

We also reached out to the Secret Service, which is handling security for the pope’s visit, to see if they would have any issues with a bunch of people living in tents in our city parks.

“No, that decision will be solely left up to the city,” says Secret Service spokesman Robert Hoback. “The only way I could see us being involved is if they would be opening up camping inside the secure perimeter. We’d need to make sure we had the manpower to make sure the camping area was clean before the pope arrives.”

So what do you think? Vote below.