Once reclusive nudists opening up to outside
The Associated Press - DAWSONVILLE, Ga.
Tucked away along a windy north Georgia lane, Dawsonville's nudist resort was
once little more than a few RV sites circled around a foot-deep pond so
secretive it was called "Hidden Valley."
Times are changing, and the little enclave where folks can bare it all is
starting to bare itself to the outside world.
Neighbors and local business owners are now encouraged to stop by for a free
visit at the 108-acre property, which was turned into a clothing-optional resort
to encourage more visitors. Annual fundraisers for local charities draw hundreds
of motorcycle bikers and joggers to its gates.
The new attitude is reflected right down to the name of the resort, which
dropped the word "hidden" from its modest welcome sign three ...
"We're no longer hiding," said Joe Lettelleir, owner of the newly-branded
Paradise Valley Resort, who proved his point by taking a cross-country trip on a
bus that dared onlookers to call a toll-free number for more information.
Once remote enclaves, nudist resorts are beginning to shed their secretive
pasts. The rustic rural mom-and-pop nudist campgrounds scattered across the
nation are being joined by glitzy resorts built alongside interstates and key
highways. Today's resort owners are joining chambers of commerce, sponsoring
charity drives and hosting civic events.
"Once upon a time, people built walls. And the feeling was we've got to have
walls, we've got to be obscure," said Erich Schuttauf, executive director of the
American Association for Nude Recreation.
"That really left people wondering what happens behind those walls. Folks
didn't realize, it was basically just a club, what a swim and tennis club would
resemble," he said. "When they began to open up to the community more, people
Owners regularly look to one of the oldest nudist spots, the Cypress Cove
Nudist Resort and Spa in Kissimmee, Fla., as a pioneer of this openness.
For 20 years, the resort has hosted an annual July open house to welcome
neighbors. More recently, it's sponsored a yearly chamber of commerce event and
annual "Body of Art" show featuring about 25 artists and their nudist
"By opening up to the public, we demystify what we have," said Dean Hadley,
the resort's manager. "A lot of people don't understand what this is all about.
By demystifying it, people understand us better _ and people don't think we're a
bunch of crackpots."
One way to do so, a group of residents at Tampa's Paradise Lakes Resort
decided five years ago, was to form the world's first nudist Lions Club. Members
meet twice a month at the resort's restaurant and raise more than $10,000 each
year to buy eye care for the needy and give to blind charities.
"We've got to raise money from people who don't have pockets," laughed the
civic group's 71-year-old president, Bob Moore. "But when it comes time to give
us money, they go home and find the money!"
Massive construction projects also reflect the more open attitude. The
sprawling Desert Shadows Inn Resort and Villas in Palm Springs, Calif., built a
"Bridge of Thighs" that links two parts of the resort across a major road,
serving as a very public reminder to passing drivers.
At Dawsonville's Paradise Valley, contractors are pounding away at the first
phase of a $30 million project to construct 152 condos and 40 townhouses, mostly
for residents of nearby towns looking for a scenic weekend getaway.
The resort's handful of full-time residents say their neighborhood offers
what "textile" communities can't: A close-knit haven. Members gather each
Saturday for theme parties at the Bare Cheeks Lodge. On weekends, the Valley's
three pools are standing-room only, and the diner (motto: "No top, no shoes, no
problem") is packed.
Neighbors not only know each other, but they share quirks, like Mr. Ed, a
friendly orange cat that wanders from house to house, feeding on gourmet cat
food and grilled salmon that residents prepare in advance for him.
Gary, the Valley's resident pastor, has married at least 25 couples, many who
first met at the resort. Lounging shirtless on his couch, he recalls moving to
the resort 10 years ago and never looking back.
"I've got safety, contentment and happiness," said Gary, who prefers not to
use his last name. "And I've got naked people. Some pretty. Some not."
On The Net: paradisevalleyresorts.com