As spring warms into summer, buildings and campsites are sprouting under majestic pines that are scattered among vestiges of the narrow gauge railroad that used to chug through Nevada City.
Inn Town Campground plans to open this summer, but meanwhile, Erin and Dan Thiem, who also own the Outside Inn in Nevada City, are building picnic tables, bathrooms and other out buildings against the backdrop of the former railroad’s Old West saloons and stables. Historic railroad ties and the Gold Rush facades along the former narrow gauge track will remain.
The so-called “glamping” grounds will offer family-friendly amenities, including a communal kitchen, laundry and shower facilities, luxury tents, bathrooms, RV hookups and a swimming pool, all within spitting distance of downtown Nevada City.
It was during a five-year vacation in New Zealand aboard an RV camper, visiting a variety of Kiwi holiday parks, that the couple fell in love with the idea of opening a campground in Nevada City.
“We wanted the same feel as the holiday parks we visited in New Zealand, so we looked around for property close to town, so campers could sleep under the stars and still go out to dinner in town,” Erin said.
In 2013, the couple purchased the 15-acre site next to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. A year later they secured a permit for the 70 campsites and outbuildings. As Erin commandeers the Outside Inn motel on Broad Street, Dan can be found in his 1964 Airstream office at the campground or driving through the site on his tractor.
The year-round Inn Town Campgrounds will offer pitch-your-own tent sites, luxury canvas tents with beds and linens, full RV hookups and the full-service communal building. All camping will be short-term, with a two-week limit. Guests will be able to visit the Nevada County Railroad Museum, stroll through the historic Chinese Miner’s Cemetery and walk the two-mile trail to downtown.
Adding to the campground attractions is the restoration of the historic track of the Narrow Gauge railroad that winds through the wooded site. It’s called the Railbus and so far crosses Gold Run streams, the Northern Queen’s meadow and the New Mohawk mine. It also passes near Railroad Avenue, the original railroad right of way. It will eventually pass through the Inn Town Campground, with a “grand opening” of the track sometime this year.
Not surprisingly, Nevada City boosters are happy about the new campground.
“The Chamber is thrilled to have a campground in Nevada City,” said Cathy Whittlesey of the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. “We receive many inquiries and it will be wonderful to direct visitors to a campground that is adjacent to the downtown area where they will be close to our museums, restaurants and specialty shops. It will also be a great resource for the visitors who come to town for our events. We are excited and welcome this new addition to Nevada City.”
The director of the Wild & Scenic Film Festival expressed similar enthusiasm.
“The Wild & Scenic Film Festival can’t wait for the Inn Town Campground to open, said Melinda Booth, festival director. “Many of our attendees have asked if there is a campground nearby and until recently we’ve had to say ‘no.’ This addition will meet the need of a segment of our audience to provide economical lodging and a nature experience.”
Reservations for July 1 are available now by visiting inntowncampground.com.