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Silver Springs Campground, located near the northeast corner of Stow and operated by the Stow Parks & Recreation Department since 1976, has closed for the 2016 camping season. It turned out to be a remarkable year for the facility.
"It's been the busiest year that I've ever experienced at the campground, not only in terms of attendance, but in terms of activities and events," says longtime department employee Ken Barnhart. "We've spent the entire summer celebrating the campground's 40th anniversary. It really was a 'happening' year."
During the celebration, the Department offered a special rate for a five-night stay, as well as a special rate for firewood. In keeping with the anniversary, both involved the number 40. "A total of 321 camping permits were written up for the five-night special, which was more than expected," Barnhart explains. "We also sold 222 firewood specials, so both anniversary specials were very well received by the campers."
There was also a pair of anniversary drawings that took place just after Labor Day. "Beginning April 1st, each time a family stayed at Silver Springs Campground for a two-night stay, their name was entered into a drawing. We then drew 40 names, with each family receiving a free two-night stay at the campground." Barnhart continues, "Also, each family that did the five-night special had their name placed into a separate drawing. We drew one name, with that family winning 40 nights of free camping."
There were also some special events that took place during the year. "On April 9th, we hosted a campground Open House at Heritage Barn. We gave away BOGO coupons for the campground and had a door prize drawing that featured 40 camping and outdoor-related gifts (such as camp chairs, pie irons, bird and tree ID books, campfire tripod grill, and more)," Barnhart details. "We also had Jungle Terry stop by with his exotic animal show, and we had lots of literature from national, state, and local park systems, plus refreshments and more."
Mid-season saw another special event. "Local dealership Kamper City brought eight camping units for display along the perimeter of the campground on July 23rd and 24th. They also had various types of camping items set up on numerous tables," Barnhart explains. "Visitors were able to tour the campers and see what was new in the way of camping gear. We also had refreshments and door prizes."
A third event took place near the end of the camping season. "We had a pancake breakfast on October 23rd," Barnhart continues. "That included a contest to see which camper could guess how many campsite rentals we would have by year's end. We also had an over-sized Happy Anniversary 'card' for campers to sign along with their comments about the campground."
All of the anniversary-related activities brought a large influx of people to Silver Springs Campground this year. "Our campground has been doing really well in recent years," Barnhart adds. "But we just experienced a fourth consecutive record-breaking attendance. This is, by far, the biggest year for the campground ever."
In fact, the 3084 site rental total in 2016 was a 26.5 percent jump over last year's total and is the largest single-year increase in the campground's 40-year history.
About 1/3 of the campsite registrations were for Stow resident families, while 2/3 were for non-resident families. This is a slight increase for non-residents. Part of that increase is due to the greater number of campers coming in to visit the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
"We experienced a 52 percent increase in the number of families using Silver Springs Campground as their base while they visit the national park, compared to the year before," Barnhart explains. "These CVNP visitors accounted for about 12 percent of our overall business this year and, if the trend continues, those numbers will only go up in the future."
Those visitors came from all over the U.S., but there were also campers from Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, and other countries. "There is, sometimes, a very international feel in the campground," Barnhart mentions. "It's always nice to meet campers from other countries, and to find out their impressions of the United States."
The campground facility, located at 5238 Young Road, is fairly small. "The 27 campsites occupy an area of perhaps 300 feet by 300 feet within Silver Springs Park," Barnhart indicates. "But I would estimate that the campground has provided nearly 3° million hours of recreation for our registered campers over the years. More than that, if you include their visitors and guests. Not bad for such a small campground operation."
To learn more about Silver Springs Campground, visit the Stow Parks & Recreation website at: www.FunInStow.com and click on Park & Places, then click on Silver Springs Campground.
The campground will re-open on April 1st, 2017. "I think things will settle down a bit next year," says Barnhart. "I believe we'll get back to a more normal level, now that the 40th anniversary celebration has passed. But it was loads of fun while it lasted."