STOW  — The city has opened Silver Springs Campground as a safe space for Stow residents who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stow residents who work in health care or safety services and need a safe space to quarantine away from their families during the coronavirus crisis can park a recreational vehicle (RV) or camper at Silver Springs Campground, 5238 Young Road.

"Our safety forces and health care workers are superheroes who are putting themselves at risk every day, and we understand that many of them are unable to stay in their homes during this crisis to help protect their families against possible exposure to COVID-19, and we want to do anything we can to help them during such a difficult time," said Mayor John Pribonic. "By offering Silver Springs Campground as a non-congregate housing option, these workers may be able to find some peace of mind knowing that they have a safe place to stay while also protecting their families from the highly contagious virus."

Any health care or safety services employee who wishes to use the campground as a safe haven must apply through the city’s Safety Services Department. When applying, employees must present a photo ID and provide either documentation from work or co-worker contact information that verifies they are either a first responder or health care worker, said Director of Public Service Nicholas Wren. Eligibility will be verified at the Safety Building.

On Wednesday, Wren said one first responder has applied and is staying at the campground.

Permits will be issued for campers or RVs. No tents are allowed at this time. Due to social distancing procedures, the city is limiting the availability of sites to 12 RVs or campers. Each RV or camper is limited to one person and must have a restroom facility on board. Facilities at the campground are closed; however, a dump station is available.

This program is open only to Stow residents who are essential employees in safety services (police/fire/EMS) or at a medical facility where the potential for contracting COVID-19 is elevated.

Application information and forms can be found on the city’s website at stowohio.org. For more information or to submit an application, contact Mel Adams, Fire and Life Safety Educator at the Stow Fire Department, at 330-689-3292 or madams@stow.oh.us.

Wren said it is not known when Silver Springs Campground will open to the public. Campgrounds are among the venues that remain closed to the public under Gov. Mike DeWine’s Stay At Home order.

Linda Nahrstedt, director of parks and recreation for the city of Stow, said she does not have an estimate on how much the city is losing with the campground being closed. She noted, however, that "due to the weather," use of the campground is "light" in the month of April.

Stow Fire Chief Mark Stone at the April 23 Council meeting said first responders who are actively involved in taking care of COVID-19 patients appreciated the choice to use the campground.

Council President Sindi Harrison (Ward 2) said Summit County Public Health initially said the city wasn’t authorized to use its own campground for housing first responders.

"I was very frustrated with this response as Summit County is planning on doing something very similar to what we proposed and charging first responders for it," Harrison said.

Harrison said she contacted Ohio State Sen. Kristina Roegner and asked for her help in discussing this issue with the State Health Department and the governor's office.

"Sen. Roegner was more than helpful and got the right parties involved at the state level to get this back on track," Harrison said. "The State Health Department let myself and Sen. Roegner know … that they are approving our limited use of Silver Springs Campground for our first responders."

Stone said the fire department was well staffed and ready to meet the demands of COVID-19 patients.

"We are going through a lot of gowns and placed an order for more gowns and hope they will show up," Stone said. "Our normal vendors are out of stock, so we’re looking at other resources."

Police Chief Jeff Film said they were working hard to obtain personal protective equipment and were waiting for some big orders.

"We should be good in the short term," Film said. "I want to thank the public for PPE gear and lunches. The community has shown overwhelming support."

Gannett Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at lfreeman@recordpub.com