Friday, May 08, 2009

Arch camp?

One way to enliven the Arch grounds would be to allow camping. In Europe, camping is a popular way to travel. It's fun and relaxing. Would you be interested in being able to camp at the Arch?

How much would you pay for an overnight campsite? What amenities would you want? Allowing camping on the Arch would be a low cost way to create a fun and unique downtown tourist attraction.

Imagine if camping were allowed at the Arch, and on Friday and Saturday nights, there were historic re-enactors who would come around, telling stories of life on the old riverfront of St. Louis.

Campers would sit near a campfire, the actors would tell a story, families and friends would listen, maybe sing some songs or roast some marshmallows, enjoy refreshments, and spend quality time downtown on the riverfront.

What do you think? What would it take to get something like this going?


LisaS said...

interesting. I'm told that pre-air conditioning, people routinely "camped" out in the City's parks on hot summer nights .... for those of us who tent camp, minimal additional infrastructure is needed or wanted. access to toilets/showers is the biggest thing ... maybe we should try to talk the Park Service into hosting the Great St Louis Slumber Party sometime soon?

Michael R. Allen said...

There is some historic precedent for this idea, since the National Park service once required all National Parks to have an ampitheater for camping, and such an amenity was included in the original Jefferson National Expansion Memorial site plan.

Anonymous said...

It would take about 1 week until the Arch grounds would become a permanent homeless camp.

Rick Bonasch said...

^ I love anonymous comments. The best thing about them is how guilt free you can be about responding! No personalities involved, no feelings to hurt, just focus on the issues. Fellow bloggers, if you want to keep the conversation going, don't turn off the anonymous comments. Encourage them! Okay, so on to the reponse about how camping on the Arch grounds would encourage a homeless encampment.

I've seen homeless encampments. You see them in places where there are thousands of homeless people wandering and loitering the streets. San Francisco is the best example I can think of, with Seattle being a close second. St. Louis has nowhere near the homeless situation of these two places.

Furthermore, like any campground at other national parks, camping at the Arch would need to be tightly controlled to be a success. Campers would need to have a reservation, they would need to have a permit for their campsite, and they would have to follow rules.

The cost of the program would need to be supported by fees. If there were 40 campsites in total, a $30 permit would generate $1,200 per day in revenues to the park. There might be other possible fees as well. If camping was allowed 3 days a week, revenues would work out to $15,600 per month.

If campsites were available 9 month per year, the NPS would raise $140,400 per year on campsite permit fees. If open year round, the NPS would raise $187,200. Allowing for a 10% vacancy or cancellation factor, and the NPS still raises significant revenue.

What would the costs be? Improve campsites. Build men's and women's showers and restrooms for campers. The ideal area for this might be near the south end service facility, where a secure area could be created, perhaps as an addition to the existing service buildings.

For the safety and security of campers, it would be good to have one NPS ranger working an overnight shift. At $15 per hour, the cost of this person would come to $120 a night. This would probably the single highest line item of operating expense. The $120 per day safety and security ranger eats up the revenue from 4 campsites at $30 per night.

To answer my own question, how would we get something like this going, the first thing would be to develop a business plan. That plan would lay out development and operating costs, and then develop a financial model to support the costs.

The other key question is whether the NPS would ever go for such a thing. Anyone have a sense for that?

Back to Lisa S' question about generations of St. Louisans sleeping outside in city parks before the advent of widespead air conditioning, the answer is yes. I've spoken with many older St. Louis residents who remember those days very well.

I wonder how they staved off the mosquitos?

Anonymous said...

All for camping but better than the Arch grounds is to camp on the south side of Forest Park next to the Zoo (but of course Lou residents are against losing their highway).

Limiting your vision to the Arch grounds leads to a Danforth-StL mentality.

Rick Bonasch said...

(Playing referee amongst the anonymous posters...)

What does Danforth have to do with whether one wishes to camp at the Arch or Forest Park?

Although it does raise an interesting question...

Which would be more likely to support urban camping: the City of St. Louis or the National Park Service at the Arch?

As far as choosing a park for camping in the city, Forest Park would not be my first choice (digging back at the last anonymous poster...)

Forest Park is a great park, but why limit your choices there? I would pick Chain of Rocks Park on the City's north rivefront.

Someday it might be able to tie in with Cassilly's concrete post- industrial, imaginarium landscape.

Shannon said...

I'd love to be able to camp at the arch!! However I agree that it could attract an unsavory crowd and would need 24/7 staffing.