$300 & a 1941 Plymouth: 75 Years of Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, Uniontown, Ohio
In 1947, after World War II had ended, a young man named Hoke Hostetler drove to Uniontown, Ohio in his ’41 Plymouth with $300 in his pocket. His dream was to open a miniature golf course because he loved the game, so he bought seven acres of farmland and built the course himself with the help of some local high school students. It was ideally located between Akron and Canton and became so successful that he added picnic grounds, a shelter and a large swimming pool. He named the complex Clearwater Park after the clear, spring-fed creek that ran on the property, and families enjoyed the miniature golf and pool so much that they started pitching tents there so they could do it all over again the next day. Recognizing an opportunity when he saw one, Hoke added 130 campsites to the property and the Hostetler family ran the campground and park until they sold it to Mert and Charlene Yoder 20 years ago.
“The camping was kind of an accident,” Mert says. But not anymore. Today, the family-friendly park offers 175 campsites, including 10 cabins. Over the years, the Yoders have made many improvements to the park’s accommodations and amenities. In 2013, they made the decision to have their park join the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort franchise.
“This whole place is based on families and nothing but,” Mert says.
Naturally, the park’s zero-depth, 550,000-gallon pool, which is the largest swimming pool in Stark County, is a major draw. It includes a diving platform, slides, water play features and a Wibit floating obstacle course. The park also has a gem mining sluice and, of course, the miniature golf course that started it all. There are also kids’ crafts and a Family Fun Zone that offers archery, basketball, a bike track, Gaga Ball, a giant slide, playground, RC track and sand volleyball. A series of themed weekends offer even more family fun, and as with all Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resorts, visits from Yogi Bear and his friends are a big hit. The seasonal park opens in early May with a fun invitation to guests to help wake up Yogi to get him out of hibernation for the season.
In addition to attracting out-of-town campers, the park is popular with locals who come to enjoy the facilities. Campground guests are welcome to use the pool for free during the length of their stay, and local residents have opportunities to purchase daily admission and seasonal swim passes.
The park also contributes to the local economy by employing more than 50 staff members each summer, many of whom are high school students or teachers who are off for the summer.
It’s clearly the Yoders’ focus on families that make the park such a success. “It’s all about the kids,” Mert says. “They love meeting Yogi and getting hugs from him. They just go home with a fuzzy feeling. Yogi is ageless.”
Congratulations to the Yoders and everyone else who has contributed to the park’s amazing 75-year legacy. Wishing you many, many more years of success.