The growing nudist movement and nudist travel in Ohio
By Mark Luedtke
More citizens of Dayton are living next door to nudists than one might think. Nudism has gone mainstream. In 2007, USA TODAY reported, “40 million Americans have skinny-dipped in mixed company, according to a Roper poll, and a YPB&R/Yankelovich Partners travel survey revealed that vacationers rated access to nude recreation higher than golf or tennis in choosing a destination.” But golfers and tennis players need not lament because they can have it both ways. A Google search for “nudist golf” returns 2,410,000 hits, and many nudist clubs feature tennis courts.
Nudism is popular all over the country, and Ohio is no exception. The American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), the premier nudist organization in the country serving 213,000 individuals and with over 260 affiliated clubs in the US and Canada according to Cincinnati’s CityBeat magazine, lists eight clubs in Ohio, five with property. The southwestern Ohio region hosts three clubs within 90 minutes of Dayton: Paradise Gardens in Cincinnati, Sunshower Country Club in Indiana, and Cedar Trails Nudist Resort in Peebles, Ohio near Great Serpent Mound.
Since practically every American grows up wearing clothes in their daily lives, it’s natural to wonder what attracts so many people to nudism. Chris from Hubert Heights and his wife are both nudists, and have been naked together at home pretty much since they got married. But Chris reports, “It was about 18 years later we found out people actually do this in the presence of others and it wasn’t a sexual thing.”
Chris and his wife enjoy the freedom of nudism, but religion plays a role in their choice as well. “We are religious and this is in many ways like being in the garden, ‘naked and unashamed.’ We know that many in the US are brought up to think the naked body is a sin, but did you know that the prophet Isaiah was commanded to preach for three years naked? If it was a sin to be naked in public, how could God command you to sin?”
While religion is an important factor for Chris, it isn’t necessarily important to everyone else, and AANR clubs have no religious affiliation. AANR claims, “You’ll find all faiths—and people of no faith—represented at nudist resorts. Some clubs hold non-denominational services on Sundays.”
Though religion isn’t a central theme of nudism, self-confidence is. Chris observes, “Being a nudist does at least one thing for people. You have much higher self-esteem, and self-confidence.” Jo Anne Roessler, co-owner of Cedar Trails with her husband, has noticed the same thing. She says of nudism, “It’s extremely comfortable to have that comfort zone. That’s what it’s all about.”
Jo Anne grows passionate when she explains how nudism empowers people to overcome concerns about appearance. Without the pressure to dress a certain way, to dress for success or to dress to impress, nudists become more relaxed and more comfortable with themselves and others. Nudism strips away people’s facades. AANR explains, “Our own self-esteem is enhanced by our ability to accept ourselves as we really are. We find it easy to accept others regardless of physical size, shape, or body condition. Moreover, social class distinctions, often indicated by clothing, disappear. Self-esteem is enhanced in the nudist world, where body acceptance is the norm. Conversation seems to come easier. Many report the ‘time warp’ phenomenon. A one day respite spent clothes-free seems to relax people more than an entire weekend elsewhere. Without clothes, stress seems to melt away.” According to Jo Anne, when visitors new to nudism come to Cedar Trails, they’re generally out of their clothes within 15 minutes and enjoying the community.
What About Children?
It isn’t just adults who benefit from that confidence boost. Both Chris and Jo Anne believe nudism is beneficial for children. Chris has observed a number of children grow up in the nudist lifestyle. “We know several families who brought up their kids as nudists. They are about the most level-headed young adults I have ever met.”
Jo Anne has a more personal viewpoint. She was a grandparent when her new husband introduced her to nudism after she grew uncomfortable taking her grandchild to a public pool because of the activity of the teenagers there. Her husband suggested he take them to a nudist camp because it was a less sexually charged environment. She agreed, and she’s never regretted it. Immediately afterward she and her husband bought Cedar Trails, 20 years ago next summer. Her daughters help work the property. Her grandchildren and now great-granddaughter attend.
Jo Anne reports, “Kids can be open. They don’t have to worry about getting dirty. They can run around the grounds, and the exposure of others being nude takes away the curiosity when they become teenagers.” It’s hard to believe that nude teenagers aren’t curious. When pressed, Jo Anne clarifies, “They grow up comfortable with themselves. It gives them self-confidence.” And there’s nothing they haven’t seen of the opposite sex.
What Is a Nudist Club Like?
Sprawling on 60 acres of Ohio woodland, Cedar Trails boasts 42 campsites, six RV sites, three rental lodges, three full time residents and a huge camping area. It has five miles of hiking trails around a 300 million year old meteor crater, a pond with a boat for fishing, sport courts, a heated pool and a party pavilion. Visit www.cedartrailsnudistretreat.com for more info. Jo Anne’s husband Fred compared Cedar Trails to other parks in CityBeat, “It’s basically like any other campground with standards better than a state park, except that the people here are nude.”
In addition there are rules intended to make visitors more comfortable and promote a family atmosphere. Use of alcohol is restricted. Personal photography is strictly prohibited and cell phone use allowed only in designated areas to insure they are not used to take photographs. Sexual innuendo and any other behavior considered inappropriate around children is not tolerated. These rules are common to all AANR affiliated clubs.
Another rule at Cedar Trail is visitors must be nude. Cedar Trails is not a clothing-optional club. Of course there are practical limitations. A nudist can don a shirt to avoid a sunburn or wear shoes to protect the feet on hikes. Clothing can be worn for practical reasons, or as Fred put it in CityBeat, “Nudists aren’t nudists when it’’s 10 degrees out.”
Visitors come from as far as West Virginia, and many nudists visit from Cincinnati, Columbus and Dayton. Jo Anne says, “People will drive up to a three hour drive for a weekend stay.” Cedar Trails offers full and associate memberships and a smorgasbord of services at varying fees to visiting nudists.
Chris explains how he discovered Cedar Trails, “I was doing a Google search and saw the link to Cedar Trails. I was shocked! People actually got together nude and NOT for an orgy. I called my wife and we went through the web site together. My wife said, ‘let’s go for it!’ so we called, made a reservation and went. It was a hot day when we went. It took us all of 20 minutes to get naked and we have never looked back.” Chris hasn’t visited either of the closer clubs. “Cedar Trails is a place we fell in love with the first time we visited. We have never made it to the other clubs yet.”
What About Swingers and Voyeurs?
AANR clubs like Cedar Trails are family friendly venues, and Jo Anne rarely experiences problems with visitors for a few simple reasons. First, her clients tend to be families doing family activities, just nude. So for swingers and voyeurs, Jo Anne reports “It’s boring to them. It’s not provocative.” People looking for something else quickly leave.
Jo Anne is hesitant to talk about an informal rule that provides her second level of protection. More single men generally visit nudist clubs than single women. In order to keep single women from being intimidated and to limit the possibility of bad apples, Jo Anne asks that visitors call in advance. If on any given day, single men begin to outnumber single women, she or Fred will turn away additional single men to keep the balance. “We try to be open to anybody who is generally open to nudism, but most of your inner clubs will put a quota on it.” Sometimes the Roesslers also turn away men who come to the park without telling their wives. “It rarely ever happens that I have to say it’s not a good day, and I will say it quicker to someone who has not talked to their spouse at all.”
According to Chris the members of the community provide the final level of protection. “Swingers and voyeurs do visit occasionally, but I should say that Jo Anne and Fred are pretty good at filtering the more obvious people from getting in. Those that do get by are very discreet about it. Plus, we the members are pretty good at self-policing for those who suddenly decide to become obvious to everyone. Our concerns are how these behaviors could affect children who are visiting.”
What About Other Possibilities?
Ohio does not offer any nude beaches, but Lake O’ the Woods Club in Indiana features two sand beaches on a 20 acre lake. There are no nudist parks in the Dayton area, and while it’s not uncommon for people to “free hike” at Caesar Creek and other parks, it’s illegal and they run the risk of being caught.
Like Chris and his wife, many nudists go naked in their homes. Others who have yards protected by privacy fences or homes surrounded by forest go nude in their yards. Chris offers some advice for people who might want to try the nudist lifestyle, “What I tell people who express an interest of any sort is they should spend a day at home naked and make note how they felt. Then go to a place like Cedar Trails during the week when it is less busy. Take a walk, skinny dip in the pool. Some who seem interested will use excuses about their weight or something about not being a ‘10.’ Nudists come in all shapes and sizes, tall and short, fat and thin, cellulite, scars, you name it. But for nudists, it doesn’t matter. I tell those folks that the benefit of being naked results in better self-esteem and maturity.”
With 716 AANR members in Ohio plus nudists who aren’t members, Dayton citizens may never look at their neighbors the same again.
Reach DCP freelance writer Mark Luedtke at firstname.lastname@example.org.