Ottawa welcomes urban campers for Canada's 150th — but it'll cost you

The City of Ottawa is offering some prime spots to would-be urban campers on Canada Day weekend — but they don't come cheap.

Poverty activists say charging $75 nightly for a tent sounds 'like gouging'

CBC Ottawa's Steve Fischer sets up a tent at Tom Brown Arena — about four months too early for Canada Day camping. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

The City of Ottawa is offering some prime spots to would-be urban campers during this summer's Canada Day weekend — but they don't come cheap.

For the first time, the city is offering spots for camping at 11 local recreation centres and arenas to mark Canada's sesquicentennial. 

The urban version of "roughing it" costs $75 per night for a tent, with a minimum three-night stay. If you're pulling up in an RV, the price is $180 to $230, depending on size, with the same three-night minimum.

While the city says it's rolling out the welcome mat for the Canada Day long weekend, the pop-up campgrounds "sound like gouging" to Mavis Finnamore, an anti-poverty activist with ACORN Canada.

Mavis Finnamore is an anti-poverty activist with ACORN Canada and says the Canada Day rates 'seem like gouging.' (Steve Fischer/CBC)

Finnamore said those prices are out of reach for the working poor and those on social assistance.

"They're going to be excluded from something like this. They aren't going to be able to take part … even if some of the events might be free, like the fireworks," Finnamore said.

City says it's covering costs

Mayor Jim Watson defended the price, saying the city had initially planned to charge more but is now only asking for "just enough to break even."

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson says the camping rates are based on a cost-recovery basis. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

"We have extra costs incurred with regard to porta-potties and washrooms on the site," Watson said. "We have to have staff there for security reasons, so we think it's reasonable. But we can't afford to give this service away because it would cost too much to taxpayers."

What do you get?

Tent campers get an eight-metre-by-eight-metre site on the grass and a parking permit. The price doesn't include a picnic table, fire pit, or access to the pool or any other facilities in the recreation centre.

RV campers are provided with a parking spot, access to the porta-potties and showers.

While propane grills are allowed, charcoal barbecues, open fires and fireworks are not. Service animals are permitted but pets are prohibited.

Registration is available on the city's website from March 1 until June 15. The city says there are no subsidies available for out-of-town people who cannot afford a tent site. 

Tom Brown Arena is one of 11 city-owned facilities being made available for tents and RVs during Canada Day weekend. (Steve Fischer/CBC)