PORTLAND – Off the Grid Experience, a campground that offers a rustic experience in a natural setting, opened Friday in Portland.

Mark Thomas, the deputy commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, who was among state and local officials on hand Friday for the grand opening, said, “This is such a valuable asset to the Rails to Trails Program. This is the only location I know of on the entire Rails to Trails system that offers these kind of amenities.”

State Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean, was among the government officials who rode in a wagon drawn by two draft horses. She was joined by Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan when the horses and wagon drove through a ribbon over a covered bridge on the property.

“What a great place to relax,” said Young. “Chautauqua County needs places where people can be reminded of the natural beauty that is here.”

Horrigan said he was very impressed with the project.

“I am really encouraged by all the work that Jerry Speelburg and his family have put into this project,” he said.

Speelburg, who drove the wagon for the guided tour, told the group that he has invested more than $200,000 to improve the land. “We have been careful to only cut timber where we needed to,” he added. The roadways that lead to cabins on the site are narrow.

Campers will be brought to the cabins by horses or with four-wheel vehicles. Each cabin has a large double bed, bunk bed and a toilet. There is about 480 square feet of space inside and porches outside. Campers are encouraged to keep their stay very rustic and to enjoy walking the trails.

“The main method of transportation is shoe leather,” Speelburg said.

Part of the property was owned by his wife’s grandparents but they have added several acres. The cabins are so far apart you cannot see one from the next.

Speelburg said he intends for the cabins to be open year-round and will encourage snowmobiles, cross-country skiing and snow-shoe activities.

A pavilion is being built by Amish craftsmen. Most of the woodworking in the cabins was from native trees with Amish carpenters, according to Speelburg.

Reservations for the campground can be made on the website, www.offthegridexperience.com.

Click here to see the comments. Add yours now!