Ozburns Recall History of Falcon Campground
Editor's Note: The following story about the Falcon Meadow Campground in Falcon, Colo., a northern suburb of Colorado Springs, appeared in the Falcon Herald.
It has been more than 50 years since Falcon Meadow Campground first opened. Jim Ozburn, owner with his wife, Dee, was 16 years old when his father opened the campground in 1959, and now he’s 70.
Ozburn was 15 years old when his parents, Gerold and Leona, decided to move from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Colorado to open the campground. They purchased a piece of land near Falcon in 1957; two years later they opened for business.
Business was slow at first. “The campground didn’t follow the business plan my dad had,” Ozburn said. “My dad thought he would open it up and immediately it would be full every night.” The first night it opened, the campground had two customers. “That was pretty good because we only had two picnic tables to begin with anyway,” he said. “And so the next day my dad bought two more picnic tables and sure enough the next night we had four customers.” The cost of a campsite for four people at that time was $1.25. “At that price, he couldn’t afford any more picnic tables for a while,” Ozburn said.
Store Became Landmark
The campground office store was not only convenient for campers but also proved to be popular among local high school students. “After school was out, kids would want some nourishment or their cigarettes and they would travel down to the store here,” he said. “And it must have been open lunch because kids would come down here during lunchtime and get their soda pop, candy bars and cigarettes. So we were quite popular.”
As a result, Jim’s dad implemented a rule limiting the number of people in the store at one time. “The old store was very small and it was actually meant to be the office of the campground,” he said. “So my dad had a rule – four students at a time.” If there were more than four, they would have to wait outside.
There was also a waiting line for the campground’s pay phone – a popular addition not only for campers but also for many Falcon area residents. Just east of the campground, the phone number prefix was 683 rather than 495. So, for those on the eastern plains, calling Colorado Springs was a long distance phone call. “We used to have two, three, maybe even four cars sometimes lined up to use that pay telephone because people didn’t want to pay the expense of a long distance call,” Ozburn said. “And sometimes it would come to blows if one guy wanted to have a half-hour conversation with his girlfriend.”
Marriage in 1964
While his parents continued to build up the campground, Ozburn graduated from Wasson High School in 1961 and then went to college at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley. Ozburn took a ballroom dance class to meet girls, he said. He met his future wife, Delia (Dee), who was also in his social studies class, and the two dated for several months before getting engaged. They married Aug. 22, 1964.
Ozburn graduated from UNC with a bachelor’s degree in math in 1965 and returned later to complete his master’s degree. Dee Ozburn graduated the same year with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, and the two began their teaching careers in Canon City, Colo. After a couple years, they moved to Woodland Park, Colo.
In 1969, the Ozburns decided to move to Oregon. They adopted two children – Danelle and David. They enjoyed the West Coast but still had a fondness for Colorado. “I don’t think we ever did miss a year of coming back here and working a little bit (at the campground),” Ozburn said.
After five years in Oregon, the Ozburns returned to Colorado when Ozburn’s dad began having health issues. “We didn’t want to move too close; within striking distance, but not as close as when we lived in Woodland Park and Canon City,” he said. “So we ended up in Longmont.”
Ozburns Take over Management
The Ozburns lived in Longmont for more than nine years and, during that time, Ozburn’s dad passed away. In the summer of 1983, the Ozburns considered taking over the family business. “I asked her (his mom), ‘When would you like us to take the business over?’” he said. “And she said, ‘How about tomorrow?’” Ozburn was still teaching, so as soon as the school year ended he and his wife took over the Falcon Meadow Campground.
They immediately made a few changes like expanding the size of the store and improving the gas station area.
In the mid-80s, the Ozburns began selling propane and added their first full hook up (water, electricity and sewer) for RVs. “We needed to meet the challenges of the time and so we put in these full hook ups,” he said. “And that immediately brought our camping up.”
For the next 15 years, business boomed; however, in 2000, things changed. “That’s when Safeway opened up,” Ozburn said. “And immediately when Safeway opened up we were no longer the grocery store of the area.” A couple years later, the Ozburns took another hit when Safeway added a gas station and convenience store. “When Safeway opened its gas station, that was a huge impact,” he said. Although grocery and gas sales decreased, their campground was full every night. “Last year was our best year ever,” Ozburn said. “Our previous best was 9,700 camper nights (when a camper stays one night), and this year it was over 11,000.”
The campground that started with two picnic tables and two sites has grown to 41 sites and is 90% to 100% full from mid-May to mid-October. “Some campgrounds are a parking lot,” he said. “Ours (sites) have personalities.” The Ozburns pride themselves on providing campers with all the modern-day conveniences and the full Colorado experience with great views of Pikes Peak.
For the last 30 years the Ozburns have made it their business to meet strangers and make them feel at home – right in their own backyard.