stock file photo

Cliff and Debbie Olson and friend Mike Harris sit before a crackling fire at Silver Springs Campground, almost nothing to obstruct their view of the green rolling landscape.

The facility opened for the season Friday night, earlier than many private campgrounds, so it will still be a few weeks before the trees get their leaves, schools adjourn, and more trailers and tents join them on this 49-acre retreat.

But the Olsons couldn’t wait. Mild though the winter was, they longed to get back outdoors — specifically here, their favorite getaway.

“It’s just so beautiful and peaceful here,” Debbie Olsen said.

Silver Springs is the only campground owned by a municipality in Northeast Ohio. Park attendant Ken Barnhart said he’s been told there may be two other cities in the campground business somewhere in southern Ohio, but he’s never been able to identify them.

Stow purchased the property in the late 1960s when it was still farmland. The idea for the campground came about in 1976, Barnhart said, and “probably stemmed from the fact that [a park board member] was an avid camper and member of a camping club.”

The campground is “one step above primitive,” he noted. There is electricity, water spigots and portable toilets, but you won’t find a swimming pool, showers, or a game room here.

Still, there will be weeks this year when the park is filled to capacity, with children flying kites or hitting baseballs on Groundhog Hill, anglers catching blue gill in Heritage Lake, and star-gazers slipping off to the parking lot of nearby Fishcreek Elementary, where astronomers set up their telescopes on clear Friday nights.

There are some organized events, including a spring fishing derby for youngsters and the annual Summer Sunset Blast featuring fireworks and live bands.

For the Olsons, it’s enough to relax and watch nature pass by.

“Last year I watched baby bunnies playing. That’s my TV,” Debbie said.

The Olsons started coming to Silver Springs because the backyard of their Cuyahoga Falls home was too small to enjoy the outdoors.

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