News » News Lead

My Weekend at a Northeast Ohio Nudist Camp

by

7 comments

Page 2 of 2

Rumor has it that 80 years ago, the land was purchased by owners of the May Company who wanted a country estate for their friends and family to partake in what was one of the newest and most provocative trends of the time: naturalism.

Green Valley continued to grow from a few modest wood cabins and primitive campsites, adding sanctioned lots with electricity for trailers and RVs as the years passed. Then, in 1973, the government took part of Green Valley's property in order to build Interstate 271, land-locking a portion of the camp in the process. Speculation at the time surmised that local officials purposely planned the I-271 construction through the nudist community in order to spurn the organization, but the rumored distaste for the camp was never officially documented. Around the same time as the concrete highway opened, nudity became legal on private property in Ohio.

The GV co-op decided to sell the land on the opposite side of the highway to the Firestone family. This piece of Green Valley became Allard Park and at the very back of the public park one of the original Green Valley cabins stood until it crumbled five years ago. A sign designating its historical significance read, "Nudist Cabin: 1936."

Before computers and the internet, the only way to find out about naturalist resorts and beaches was through the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) or, as they were known in tamer times, the American Sunbather's Association (ASA). AANR, Green Valley's parent organization, placed ads in publications to drum up interest.

"I read about AANR in Playboy," says Steve, Green Valley president. "I was one of the few that actually read Playboy."

"You read Playboy, we read Penthouse!" exclaims Green Valley's corresponding secretary, an 80-year-old woman with short, curly hair, wearing a key-lime colored sarong with white lace details, who for the purposes of this article would like to be known as "the Queen of Green Valley." A member since 1978, she is one of the longest-tenured members, just behind a couple who have been attending for 50 years this summer.

"Reading things online now, nude-cations come up all the time, but you never used to see that, not even five years ago," says Vicki, the camp's activities director, who has been a member, with her husband, for 14 years. He brought up the idea of nude recreation to her after a trip to the dentist's office where he saw an ad for AANR in a Travel & Leisure magazine.

Green Valley is a far cry from resorts such as Hedonism II in Jamaica, which is mentioned throughout popular culture as an erotic vacation destination dedicated to explicit encounters and ample drug use. Green Valley is a far, far cry from that, but both are lumped together into the nude recreation industry, which brings in an estimated $400 million in business annually, according to USA Today.

"If people are open to it and want to try this," says Vicki regarding nacationing, as it's been called, "it's a smaller place to go rather than a massive resort. I think it's more people-friendly."

There are 97 lots on the grounds of Green Valley, divided into affectionately named sections based on geography, like "Bare Bottoms" and "The Plateau: Home of Frog Hollow." Four visitor cabins are available for rent. Bonnie and I stay in "Starlight," which goes for $55 a night.

Visitors must pay a daily fee, which is discounted if you are a member of AANR, INF (International Naturist Federation), or TNS (The Naturist Society).

There are roughly 160 members, with 26 living on the grounds during summer months. Membership is predominantly heterosexual couples but, "We don't dictate a couple as a man and a woman. A couple is a couple, you know," President Steve says. "We've had many gay and lesbian couples."

Only 10 percent of Green Valley's members are single, one reason being to create a balance between sexes and perpetuate the family-friendly atmosphere. Green Valley's members range in age, but there is a large concentration of 40- to 60-year-olds. Bonnie and I seem to be outliers during our weekend stay.

***

Green Valley has established itself as "family-oriented," which may seem ethically questionable, but there are two generations of members from the same family registered at the campsite. Prominently written into their club guidelines is a reminder that sexual behavior or gesturing is absolutely not tolerated

In the digital age, it has become much easier to get information about clothing-free campgrounds than it used to be. Yet, for a community known to let it all hang out, their members' privacy is paramount when it comes to sharing information with the general public. Part of the freedom of going nude is the anonymity that comes with it.

To protect individuals, Green Valley explicitly prohibits the use of cellphones, laptops, tablets or any other devices capable of taking photographs while on the grounds, if you are a visitor or guest. Anyone seen with a photographic device out in the open will be ejected from the park and added to their list of those-who-shalt-not-return. When it comes to their own use of social media, Green Valley tries to share without over-sharing.

"If you're talking about our Facebook specifically," says Pam, recording secretary and social media admin, "I try to post kind of neutral stuff, and as much as you can, keep it private. You still have to go through a screening process to get in. You can't just march through the doors."

In 2007, Green Valley added a computer to their operations. It was also then that they started cross-checking visitors, guests, and members against the National Sex Offenders list. "We do look out for pedophiles and things of that nature, for the safety of our kids," Mark says.

With a new mobile-friendly website on the way, and apps such as iSwimNude making Green Valley more visible to a technologically savvy audience, the Queen of Green Valley also has her hands full making sure creepers stay out. She personally responds to all email inquiries the camp receives.

"Sometimes they'll go on and on about their fantasies," she says. "It makes me laugh because they don't think that an 80-year-old, grey-haired woman is reading it. Last year took the cake when that nude picture got sent. I really wanted to write back, 'Wasn't worth the trouble, buddy!' But I just hit delete."

"Oh, our buddy by the refrigerator, with the erection?" Mark says, filling in the details for us.

"Yeah, our refrigerator buddy," she rolls her eyes.

"There are places out there where you can go to do that, but this is not one of them," says President Steve. It's abundantly clear that nudity does not equate to sex in the community.

"Well, with the internet, we're getting more and more of that," the Queen of Green Valley says, my heart sinking at the plague of dick pics invading her inbox, my brain somehow still missing the internet despite that fact.

I feel a little guilty about leaving the outside, clothed world completely behind during our stay. It's the sort of remorse workaholics or Facebook addicts feel on vacation when their cellphones don't work or are literally banned.

"When you pull through that gate," President Steve says, sweeping his arm out over the treetops in the direction of the campground's entrance, "you remove all your clothes and you remove all of your issues from outside."

If those on the outside ever thought that Green Valley was just an urban legend, to the members inside the little nudist commune, the restraints of the "real world" seem just as fake, at least for a few months each summer.

"Everyone just gets along and has a good time," Steve says.

A good time tomorrow would be a community-wide potluck. Tonight, that would be a bonfire, or at least that was the plan.

While I love a good sit around an open fire, doing so naked seemed dangerous, what with the possibility of embers flying back onto your bush. I had visions of competing on Naked and Afraid flash before my eyes. I was secretly happy later when it rained.

On Saturday morning, as Bonnie and I wait on a bench outside the office to check out, a thin woman fully dressed with sunglasses and a visor on asks if we'd be back.

"Oh, before you know it," I respond.

Tags

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club


Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.


Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.


Join the Cleveland Scene Press Club for as little as $5 a month.