The secluded field behind the Stanford House in Cuyahoga Valley National Park has offered the only outdoor camping experience in the park for the past 11 years, and park officials say the five Stanford Backcountry Campsites were popular.
But the experiment that started in 2008 was expected to be temporary and with the end of the 2019 season, the National Park Service announced Friday the campsites are now closed until the park service re-examines what sort of camping it can provide.
The area’s five campsites, about a half-mile from other park attractions in the center of Boston Township, have been available to from May 1 to Oct. 31 under a Commercial Use Authorization between the park and the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a non-profit that supports park activities. Campsite fees were $25 per night, per campsite, for up to 10 nights.
The park said the campground is being closed because the CUA was “not following” National Park Service policy and that the area is “experiencing resource damage.”
Park spokesperson Pamela Barnes said the CUA varies from NPS policy in several ways, including a requirement for competitive bidding for the provision of such services. Also, she said the area was not conducive to the regular relocation of campsites required to prevent degradation and that the sites, located in a field off the Stanford Trail to Brandywine Falls, did not have the sort of resources many visitors — even campers — expect. She said the campground had no water and was served by a portable toilet.
“We started the campsites in 2008 and it had been managed in various ways over the years, most recently under that CUA,” she said. “Part of managing a back country campsite is moving the campsites periodically, so when you don’t move them, you get some level of trampling.”
She said the initial intent of the campground was to provide an off-trail place for people hiking or biking along the Towpath Trail to rest overnight before continuing long-distance journeys.
“They were launched to be a walk-in site, and what we’re finding is that people are expecting a little bit more as far as amenities,” she added. “What we did find was that it was very popular and people loved the idea of being able to camp in the national park, but we just need to step back and take a look at this and see how we can do … we can do so much better in what we can offer.”
Conservancy officials were not immediately available for comment.
CVNP Superintendent Craig Kenkel said in the release that the park will be examining what sort of options it can provide in years to come.
“As CVNP approaches its 50th birthday in 2024, we want to work towards providing the type of camping experience that a national park should provide,” he said. “We will explore locations and evaluate them on how they can meet the needs of our visitors. We’ll look at options that include RV hook-ups, car camping, hike-in camping.
“It will take some time to re-establish camping in an acceptable location, and negotiate a new CUA through a competitive process,” Kenkel said.
The park will be exploring options in 2020, and plans to set up a public input process. In the meantime, comments or questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are camping locations available outside of the park. For more information, visit the Conservancy for Cuyahoga Valley or CVNP website.
For more information, visit www.nps.gov/cuva, www.facebook.com/cuyahogavalleynationalpark, or call 330-657-2752.