Stow residents can be proud of their local campground operation, one of only a few municipally operated campgrounds in Ohio. Silver Springs Campground recently enjoyed the biggest April attendance in the campground's history, and the turnout for May was also the best in recollection.
"We had a capacity crowd for Memorial Day weekend," said veteran Stow Parks & Recreation employee Ken Barnhart. "But we also had a strong opening weekend and capacity or near-capacity crowds on a number of other weekends. We're off to a great start for 2013."
Success has not been a stranger to the campground operation in recent years. In fact, the three biggest years in the campground's history have taken place over the last four years.
Silver Springs Campground has been operated by the Stow Parks & Recreation Department since about 1976. The campground is quietly nestled in the east side of Silver Springs Park, with its own access drive off of Young Road. Having its own drive helps separate the campground from some of the other park facilities, giving it a quality of isolation in an otherwise busy park.
"Many new campers arrive here with a bit of disbelief that there would be such a nice campground located here," Barnhart continues. "They drive past businesses and residential areas to get here, and they are surprised to find such a jewel located so close to home."
While Stow residents account for about half of the campers using Silver Springs Campground, many other campers come from adjacent communities or nearby towns around northeast Ohio. But there are also many visitors from outside of the local region.
"Besides visiting local friends and relatives, or attending school reunions, we've had campers stop by for quite a number of local events such as the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, the annual Twins Day Festival in Twinsburg, AA Founder's Day, Akron's Hardesty Park Arts & Crafts Festival and more," explains Barnhart. Out-of-town campers have used Silver Springs Campground as a base to be able to spend a couple of days at Geauga Lake & Sea World, visit Canton's Pro Football Hall Of Fame, or go up to the Rock-N-Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland. They've come in for local square dancing contests, Civil War re-enactments, the Yankee Peddler Festival, Moody Blues fan gatherings, GPS conventions, shuffleboard tournaments and Harry Potter Festivals.
"We can get a rather diverse group of visitors at Silver Springs Campground," Barnhart adds. "It's always a pleasure meeting and getting acquainted with them."
A June 1 Blossom Music Center concert featuring the popular Dave Matthews Band drew folks from all over Ohio plus Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Connecticut, Minnesota and Texas. In fact, the campground has actually filled up from attendance by travelling concert-goers numerous times over the years.
"We've even printed off a special map with directions, to help get the out-of-towners to and from Blossom more easily," Barnhart says. "It includes how to deal with exiting concert traffic without getting lost, and such. It's proven very helpful to these guests, and we get a lot of compliments on the service."
Recently, one of the biggest draws for out-of-town guests at the Stow campground has been the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Families and individuals have camped at Silver Springs while attending a national park event, or for bicycling the Towpath, riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, visiting Brandywine Falls or Hale Farm & Village and hiking the many superb trails throughout the park. "We are the closest public campground to the national park, so we are the ideal location for CVNP visitors to stay and camp," Barnhart explains.
The campground being adjacent to the Metro Park's Hike & Bike Trail not only provides an excellent place for local campers to ride for recreation, but also allows bicycling travelers an opportunity to camp. A number of times, bicyclists have come into Silver Springs Campground and pulled small backpacker's tents out of their bicycle "saddlebags" to set up camp. Recently, two young ladies were riding from the Cleveland area to Cincinnati over an eight-day period, and used Stow as their first overnight stop. Another time, a cyclist was doing a loop from western New York, through Canada to Michigan, down to Ohio, and back up through Pennsylvania to New York again. "He was very excited," Barnhart relates, "because he had just put in his first 100-mile day on the trip, having biked in from the Sandusky area."
"But the one that really surprised me was a young couple that I signed up a few years back," Barnhart continues. "When I registered them and reached the part of the permit that asks for their hometown and state, they replied 'Philadelphia.' I was surprised and asked what their destination was, and they responded 'San Francisco.' These folks were more or less following Interstate 80 all the way across the U.S. on bicycles for the summer, and then planned to fly home from the west coast. Now that was impressive." There have also been campers cycling from Virginia-to-Colorado and California-to-Maine.
Silver Springs Campground has also played host to some out-of-country guests. Most years have at least one family from neighboring Canada, but often include a visitor or two from other countries. Travelers from England, France, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Switzerland and countries as far away as Australia and New Zealand, have visited the Stow campground over the years. "We recently had a really nice couple from Holland stay with us during their several-week tour of the U. S.," Barnhart reveals, "and they were enjoying their visit here so much that they added on days to stay here for an entire week."
When out-of-town campers visit, the Silver Springs Campground staff will help direct them to local points of interest or events. "We'll hand out fliers or directions to Stow events such as the July 4th parade, Aviation Day and the Harvest Festival," Barnhart explains. "I recommend events like those taking place in Cuyahoga Falls on the riverfront mall. I'll also direct campers to Seiberling Naturealm's underground visitor's center, or the Great Blue Heron nesting area on Bath Road. There's plenty to see and do in the area, and we're fortunate to live in a locale that has so much to offer." In fact, the Stow area has impressed out-of-town campers so much that a couple of families have moved into the Stow, he adds.
And Stow residents are fortunate to have such a great campground in their own "backyard," as they say. Silver Springs Campground (5238 Young Road in the northeast corner of Stow) offers open and shaded sites for tents or mobile units (RVs, trailers, etc.) on a first-come, first-served basis. Site amenities include picnic table, firering/grill, and 20-amp electric. Water spigots are scattered through the campground, and there is a trailer dump station. Portable restrooms are available on site, and there are flush restrooms and sinks at the nearby ballfields. Firewood is sold for a fee, or campers can bring their own wood. The site fee is only $10/night for Stow residents and $12/night for non-residents, and up to six people are permitted on a campsite.
"For more information about Silver Springs Campground," Barnhart recommends, "visit the city Of Stow website at www.stow.oh.us and click on Departments, then Parks & Recreation, then Campground. This will bring up the campground page. If you click on the campground brochure, it will reveal map & directions, site diagram, rules, and more. All of this can be printed out at home, or stop by the campground and pick up a copy of the brochure."
As part of the upcoming Stow Pride Festival, the Stow Parks & Recreation Department will be offering a free night of camping at Silver Springs Campground for Stow residents on June 21. "This is a 'thank you' to local residents for all their support of the campground," Barnhart says, "and we hope that some new families who have never visited the campground will come out and give it a try. I think they'll be impressed."