Fairmount Park campgrounds being set up for papal visit

Emily Babay and Julia Terruso, STAFF WRITERS
Last updated: Thursday, September 10, 2015, 1:08 AM
Posted: Wednesday, September 9, 2015, 12:22 PM

Visitors to Philadelphia for this month's papal visit have yet another lodging option: expensive camping in Fairmount Park.

A campground called "Francis Fields," being set up in East Fairmount Park for pilgrims, can hold up to 16,000 people, according to the World Meeting of Families website.

The grounds between the Schuylkill and 33d Street surround a large reservoir. Car, tent, and RV camping will be accommodated.

Such amenities as showers, first-aid supplies, water, food vendors, restrooms, a general store, grills, and charging stations will be available.

One-time rates start at $199 per camper, with additional fees: $99 for tent-only camping; $109 for camping next to a car; and $999 for recreational vehicles. The RV fees includes wristbands for four campers.

The city is not charging the World Meeting of Families for use of the park, according to Mark McDonald, spokesman for the mayor's office.

"Should there be any damage to the park, they'll cover the cost of refurbishing whatever needs to be done," McDonald said.

The campground is about two miles from Eakins Oval, where Pope Francis will appear at the Sept. 26 Festival of Families and celebrate Mass the next day.

Campers may have a longer walk to the papal events, depending on where on the grounds they set up their campsite and which section of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway they can access.

The fees will cover access to the grounds while they are open, from 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, through noon Monday, Sept. 28.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no work on converting the park acreage into a campground had been started.

Allowing camping in Fairmount is a first for the city, Deputy Commissioner of Parks Mark Focht said.

Camping is not permitted in any part of the city park system and won't be allowed anywhere but the designated campsite in Fairmount during the pope's visit. "This is the place where folks who want to camp can camp," McDonald said.

The World Meeting camping prices are much steeper than those at Pennsylvania state campgrounds in the area.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources lists campsite fees at all of its campgrounds ranging from $17 per night simply for access to the campsite to $50 for walled tents and $350 for a deluxe cottage that sleeps six.

ESM Productions, which produces the Made in America concert and the papal visits on the Parkway, is contracting with a company to set up the campsite.

The entrance to the campground will be on the 1600 block of North 33d Street, in the Strawberry Mansion section. Campers will then make their way into the park on Reservoir Drive.

Vehicles parked in the "next-to-car camping" field will not be able to leave and reenter the grounds, while those in the "tent-only parking" area can come and go as they wish. Next-to-car campers will park next to their belongings, while tent-only campers will leave their vehicles in a secured lot and walk to a tent campground.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/pope/20150910_Fairmount_Park_campgrounds_being_set_up_for_papal_visit.html#I3kcrVcampO4DpV0.99