ASHLAND – Bob Luebbe has always dreamed of owning a campground.
“Shortly after we were married we had our first little popup camper,” said Luebbe as he relaxed by the fire pit at Ashland RV Campground on Monday night.
Bob and his wife, Christy, enjoyed the relaxed family atmosphere camping provided.
“It’s just a great family activity,” he said.
Luebbe liked camping so much that he dreamed of opening his own campground. Now, nearly 30 years after taking his first family camping trip, his dream has come true.
Ashland RV Campground, Luebbe’s pet project, will open on Friday. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a grand opening celebration will not take place at this time.
Even though it is the first weekend the campground is open to the public, there are no vacancies left.
“To our surprise, we sold out all of our spaces the first weekend,” said Luebbe.
And it looks like they are on track to be full for the upcoming Memorial weekend as well.
“We’ve just got a couple (spaces) left,” he said.
So far most of the campers have reserved their spaces online at the campground’s website, ashlandrvcampground.com. Luebbe said the method is very popular.
“We’re finding most people enjoy that,” he said.
Luebbe set it up so 28 of the 30 sites can be reserved ahead of time. The other two are reserved for “walk in” campers, he said, as well as two tent sites with water and electricity.
The 31st site on the campground is for the host couple. For the first few months at least, Luebbe and his wife will serve as the hosts. Their camper has been on site since holding a soft opening last weekend with family and friends.
As campers pull into the campground, Luebbe will be there to provide information about the campground and the community. He will encourage visitors to walk up the block to visit downtown Ashland’s shops or restaurants, or head to the nearby trails set up for walking, leisure biking or mountain biking.
Folks can also play disc golf at the course that runs along Salt Creek, or head down to a sand bar to fish from the waterway.
“They are finding things to do that you wouldn’t expect on the edge of town,” he said.
And there’s enough to keep campers busy for a weekend or a longer stay. Visitors can stay for a maximum of two weeks at a time during a 30-day period.
When Luebbe first pitched his idea to the Ashland City Council, he ensured them that it will be a destination campground that could ramp us Ashland’s economy.
“They’ll likely go exploring. Do a little shopping, grab a bite to eat. They’ve got money to spend,” he told the council in 2017.
Luebbe had to work with the city council to get the project done. He needed a change of zoning and a conditional use permit. The city and the Lower Platte South Natural Resources Department split the cost with Luebbe of a drainage project to route flood water out of the area. The city also vacated streets and sold two parcels of land to Luebbe.
“The city’s been great to work with,” he said.
The land that was sold was not being used by the city, and the streets that were vacated were barely passable when Luebbe bought the major portion of the land for the project.
In 2016, he bought the former C&S Iron property from Harold and Verna Strode. The 2.5-acre site included an abandoned house and four other buildings that had to be torn down. Between the buildings sat 200 tons of scrap metal, about 100 tires and plenty of other garbage that filled multiple giant roll-off containers.
“There was a lot of stuff here,” Luebbe said.
It took two years to clean up the property, design and build the campground. The final design was the third version prepared by the engineer. They went from 44 sites to 31, and moved a special feature from the campground’s entrance to the exit.
The exit is flanked by historic bridge trusses that once stood just yards away. The trusses are placed so visitors feel as though they are driving over a bridge as they leave.
The Silver Street bridge was replaced in 2017-2018 after spanning the waterway since 1936. It had served its purpose well, but eventually could not handle the frequent high water events suffered by Salt Creek.
The old bridge’s unique architecture placed it on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. It was built using the Warren truss configuration, which was used in very few bridges in Nebraska. The bridge was one of the last two of this type still standing before it was replaced.
Luebbe purchased the trusses from the bridge contractor, Simon Contractors of North Platte, when they were removed. It was a last-minute arrangement that saved the trusses from the scrap pile.
“I’m pretty happy to be able to preserve them,” he said.
The history of the bridge is preserved with a sign that tells its story. Lights illuminate the trusses as evening falls.
“It looks really pretty at night,” Luebbe said.
The bridge trusses aren’t the only unique features to this campground. The roads and all 31 sites are paved, which is uncommon and added quite a bit to the project’s price tag, Luebbe said. But as a camper himself, he knew how nice it is to pull your trailer into a flat, solid site, he added.
The paved surfaces will also last for a long time and be easy to preserve.
“We wanted to have it as maintenance free as possible,” Luebbe said.
The campground also includes a shower house with private stalls that have locking doors.
“Everyone gets their own lockable shower,” he said.
Each site has electricity and water service, along with free Wi-Fi, another unique amenity at Ashland RV Campground.
“I’m finding that’s really important to people,” said Luebbe.
There is also a laundry room, but it is closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Luebbe said. However, the 30-foot space between campsites plays well into the social distancing still required as the coronavirus continues to spread in Nebraska and the U.S.
Each campsite is equipped with its own fire pit, which is where Luebbe will likely be found most nights. He is semi-retired from his career in information technology. He founded Linoma Software, which was sold to HelpSystems in 2016.
“I’ve been in an office for 30 some years working on computers,” he said. “Now I’m outdoors.”
After growing up on a farm, outdoors is where Luebbe feels at home.
“Outdoors is where I love to be,” he said.
To learn more go to ashlandrvcampground.com.