Silver Springs Campground reopens for 2021 season
Silver Springs Campground, near the northeast corner of Stow, is open for the 2021 camping season. It opened April 1, but it was a much different story last year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly had a dramatic impact on businesses and activities worldwide, and our campground operation was not immune to that impact,” says Stow Parks & Recreation employee Ken Barnhart. “Instead of the normal April 1 opening, we were unable to let the general public into the campground until June 15…so we lost about 1/3 of our camping season.”
However, the campground was made available in April and May for front-line workers who needed a place to stay in order to protect their families. “First-responders and healthcare workers were invited to stay at the campground, while we found ways to comply with state Of Ohio health official’s recommendations to assure public safety at the facility,” Barnhart explains. “We were pleased to be able to offer help to those who spend so much time helping others.”
But the pandemic also provided an unexpected bonus. Barnhart continues, “Many families, in an effort to find forms of recreation where they could maintain ‘social distancing,’ discovered that camping filled the need perfectly. Campsites are far enough apart, yet allow families to participate in many outdoor activities, including hiking and fishing, tree and bird identification, astronomy, and so much more.”
This helps explain the nationwide uptick in camping interest. Many families that have never tried camping before jumped right in and found a new, fun activity. And some of the families that had been away from camping for a while returned to this time-honored form of recreation. “We saw many families that were new to camping, plus many returnees,” Barnhart notes. “And it wasn’t like years past, where families would start off in a tent, then try a pop-up camper, and eventually end up in a large trailer or motorhome. Most of these new families were starting off in a trailer, straight away.”
The influx of new camping families put a crunch on trailer manufacturers, and RV dealers became hard-pressed to keep up with sales. But many campgrounds across the country have noticed the surge in camping popularity. “Silver Springs Campground experienced a big increase in first-time campers,” says Barnhart. “They’re enjoying the thrill of outdoor cooking, observing wildlife, playing games, and bonding as a family in ways that they’ve never experienced before.”
The COVID restrictions also created an opportunity for the Stow Parks & Recreation Department to offer new programs that would follow the state’s health guidelines. One such special event directly involved the campground…the Halloween Hayride. “We had a number of campers decorate their campsites with a wide variety of Halloween decorations, and the public rode hay wagons along the campground road system to see all of the displays. From there, they headed for Heritage Barn to see additional displays and pick up their S’Mores Kits for roasting over campfires,” Barnhart explains. “It was a very fun event, attended by hundreds of local residents. We’re already making plans to do it again this year.”
“We also have a brand new campsite reservation system in place,” Barnhart offers. “Last year, we used a system that was designed for recreation programs and tried to adapt it to the campground operation. But the new reservation system is specifically made for reserving campsites, so it’s much better and easier to use.”
The new system also has some additional features. Barnhart continues, “In the new system, campers can view the entire campground to see what’s available, and they can see a calendar of reservations so they can look through the available dates much more easily. We’ve also added some descriptions, such as ‘close to restrooms’ and ‘close to water spigot’, to assist them with their campsite choice. Also, the new system will allow us to place a photo for each campsite, so campers will be able to see the size of the site and how open or shaded the site is, to help them with their selection. Once the trees reveal their leaves this spring, we’ll begin taking photos to add to the reservation page. We’ve already heard from campers saying that they really like the new reservation system.”
The campground is located at 5238 Young Road, and offers 27 campsites (some open, some shaded). Each site has access to 20 amp electric, a fire ring, and a picnic table. There are a few water spigots scattered around the campground, and a trailer dump station is located near the entrance drive. There are portable restrooms in the campground, but a modern facility (flush restrooms and sinks with hot and cold water) is located at the nearby ballfields.
Campers have access to many Silver Springs Park amenities, including hiking trails in the woods, fishing at Heritage Lake, play equipment at SOAR playground, basketball and tennis courts, and Bow Wow Beach dog park. There are also open areas for kite flying, model rocketry, and throw-together games. Or, just stay at your campsite and enjoy some peace and quiet and a warm, crackling campfire.
The park is adjacent to the Metro Parks Bike & Hike Trail, and is within about a 15 minute drive of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Blossom Music Center.
“After being homebound over the winter, many folks are anxious to get back to nature and enjoy the great outdoors. Springtime brings about new plant life and baby critters, and Silver Springs Park offers a wonderful chance to experience seeing both”, says Barnhart. “And clear skies allow campers to see stars and planets, passing satellites, and an occasional view of the International Space Station.”
The Stow Parks & Recreation Department has been successfully operating Silver Springs Campground since 1976, so that’s four and a half decades of providing outdoor recreational opportunities for campers. For more information, the public can visit the Department’s website at www.FunInStow.co/Parks & Places/Silver Springs Campground.
COVID-19 affected last year’s campground attendance, but was it a hindrance? “Unknown,” Barnhart concludes. “If you take half of last year’s attendance and add it on to last year’s total, then that would give you the approximate attendance for Silver Springs Campground had we been open for the entire camping season. And it would have been about a 30 percent increase over the previous year’s total. But was this despite the pandemic or because of the pandemic? It’s debatable.”
Still, Barnhart is expecting another strong camping season for 2021. “We’re off to a great start. We just experienced our biggest April in the campground’s history, so I’m expecting a lot of campers this year. And we’ll be ready for them. Our goal is to provide a fun, family-oriented, overnight camping experience for everybody, whether they’re new to camping or a veteran.”