HUDSON -- The spot Bill Martin
selected for his modern-day Garden of Eden looks nothing like
paradise, at least not yet.
The lakes are dirty, the trash piles
massive, the former owner's land deeds are loaded with racist dogma.
And then there's the pedophile problem, one of the many things
standing between Martin and his dream: a family-friendly,
Christian-themed nudist community in this rural Tampa suburb.
He's a determined Quaker who
envisions a place where man and woman and their children can roam
shame-free in the buff. A place similar, in spirit if not in name,
to the paradise described in the Bible's book of Genesis, before
Adam and Eve ate illegal fruits, acquired shame and donned fig
If one takes the Christian tale at
face value, clothing has been the societal and religious norm ever
since. It doesn't have to be, Martin and his business associates
"The Bible very clearly states that
when Adam and Eve were in right with God, they were naked. When
people are in right with God, they do not have to fear nudity," said
David Blood, executive director of the project.
Martin plans to call the "naturist"
park Natura. There will be an open church, a giant water park for
the kids and classes in family building and strengthening marriage.
And, of course, nude volleyball.
Missing, Martin said, will be the
sexual overtones and easy access to liquor that he says have plagued
many nudist colonies of late. As he sees it, it's nothing radical.
He just wants to return American nudism to its roots.
"Everyone seems to be losing their
standards," he said.
Though such a free display of body
parts would seem incongruous with major organized religions, the
American nudism movement born in the 1930s and 1940s has Christian
roots, said Erich Schuttauf, executive director of the
Kissimmee-based American Association for Nude Recreation.
As the movement grew, it rapidly
secularized. Today only a handful of the hundreds of North American
nudist resorts and communities have a Christian bent.
For some reason, the area around
Hudson -- Pasco County -- has more than its share of secular ones.
Schuttauf chalks it up to a combination of good weather and the fact
that one of America's longest-standing nudist colonies was founded
here in the 1940s, the Lake Como Family Nudist Resort.
"It's safe to say Pasco has the
single-largest concentration of nudists anywhere in North America,"
Natura will be the seventh AANR-recognized
nudist community in Pasco County. If Martin had his way, he would
have put it in Lake County, closer to Walt Disney World, but land
was too expensive.
In Pasco, he said, he rounded up
about 240 acres of land for a little more than $1.6 million, much of
it on the site of an old nudist colony -- the Florida Naturist Park
-- that had fallen into severe disrepair.
Whole lots had been transformed into
trash pits. The clubhouse and beach had been severely neglected. The
former owner had written this clause into deeds for individual lots:
"Membership in Florida Naturist Park is denied Negroes . . . not so
much because of color, but because of their forwardness."
Martin is cleaning up the trash,
fixing the deed problem and redoing the clubhouse. For his troubles,
he said, he has received death threats from longtime residents of
the rundown park who don't want things to change.
He hopes to have enough fixed up by
April for a naturist marriage retreat and massive nude baptism
ceremony. And within two years, he hopes to install permanent, more
upscale housing, the church and a $750,000 water park for the kids.
Still, there are more problems to
deal with for a park focusing on families and children. Martin said
he has identified four registered sex offenders -- "pedophiles" --
living in or around the park.
He hasn't yet figured out what to do
about the problem, though he said he's discussing it with his
"We'll make sure that no harm will
come to children," he said.
Sean Mussenden can be reached at
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