Camp Frances is a small rustic cabin located at 1501 S. Cochran Avenue at the south end of Bennett Park in Charlotte. This facility was established in the mid-1950s when the City leased a portion of the park to a nonprofit organization known as the Charlotte Girls Recreation Camp. This lease permitted the construction of a building to be used for overnight stays.
As the name of the original organization implies, the primary purpose of Camp Frances was to provide an outdoor camping experience for girls. Facilities providing such an experience existed for boys but girls did not have similar options. Over time the purposes of Camp Frances were changed to include boys and girls and the name of the nonprofit organization changed as well to the Charlotte Recreation Camp. The facility is now used by youth groups, families, nonprofit organizations and civic groups (see bottom of page for application to use Camp Frances).
Camp Frances is named for Mrs. Frances Gates, the original benefactor of the camp. Her generosity permitted the construction of the first camp building. Although it was subsequently destroyed by a fire, a more modern facility was built on the same site. The cabin features a full kitchen, meeting area, fireplace and indoor restroom.
Although the City leased the land upon which the Camp Frances cabin is built, City ordinance prevented expending any public funds on the site. The board of directors of the Charlotte Recreation Camp, as with many small nonprofit groups, faced the ongoing challenge of raising funds for the upkeep of the facility.
In late 2008, a process was set in motion that would result in the creation of a municipal nonprofit corporation as a successor to the Charlotte Recreation Camp. This nonprofit, the Camp Frances Educational and Recreational Center, was established by the Charlotte City Council and the former nonprofit was dissolved, turning its assets over the new organization. In order to provide for a smooth transition, many of the directors were appointed to the new board.
The organizational meeting of the board of directors of Camp Frances Educational and Recreational Center was held on April 28, 2010. Through its leadership, Camp Frances has established a future vision for the facility that includes environmental and outdoor education.