Nude not lewd
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Posted on Fri, Jun. 20, 2003
Organizers say teens' nudist summer camp is innocent fun
RICHMOND, Va. - Activities for kids this summer at Camp White Tail: swimming, volleyball, arts and crafts, splattering a fellow camper's nude body with pudding.
White Tail, a nudist park in southeastern Virginia's Southampton County, opens its first summer camp for the 11-to-18 age group Saturday - only the third such au naturel camp for juveniles in the nation, according to the American Association of Nude Recreation.
Bob Roche, who manages the camp on 45 bucolic acres, said the weeklong get-together is no big deal for the 30 children who signed up, most of whom were raised in nudist families.
State and local officials, however, are alarmed by a summer camp intended to bring unclothed teens together for a week.
"We're very concerned about this development. An atmosphere like that is very clearly an invitation to pedophiles," said Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore's press secretary, Tim Murtaugh.
Delegate Robert G. Marshall, one of the state legislature's foremost social conservatives, said such a camp was better suited for San Francisco than straight-laced Virginia.
"I guess these nudists were just born that way, but unlike the rest of us they never grew out of it," Marshall said.
Roche said such concerns are unfounded at Camp White Tail, which has operated legally and without incident since it opened in 1984. It attracts an average of 1,200 people at any given time, including 30 families who live there year-round. All must undergo background checks, and the camp enforces strict rules against lustful behavior.
"Sure, it could be a magnet for pedophiles, but we don't let it be. We screen everyone thoroughly and, thanks to the governor, we can check online to see if someone's a sex offender," he said.
A searchable database of sex criminals is available through the Virginia State Police Web site.
Nor are special youth activities novel at White Tail, Roche said. Each summer features "Junior Fest" weekends chock full of activities for the children of the camp's regulars.
The summer youth camp, however, is different in that parents don't have to be present. Roche likened it to summertime retreats that churches run for boys and girls.
"This is actually a camp-type camp," he said. "All the meals are inclusive, the camp is totally structured with arts and crafts for the younger ones, with swimming lessons and firefighting lessons."
There are also activities uniquely suited to nakedness such as the pudding toss.
"We give each camper a cup of pudding and a spoon and just let them plaster each other," Roche said. With nothing to launder, cleanup is as simple as a quick blast with a garden hose.
Also unusually, counselors outnumber the kids. They range in age from 19 to 25, and all have been thoroughly trained.
"There's 1 1/2 counselors for each camper," Roche said.
The camp is modeled after the AANR's Youth Leadership Camp, which has operated for 11 years near Tampa, Fla., said Carolyn Hawkins, spokeswoman for the Kissimmee, Fla.-based organization. The other youth nudist camp is in Arizona.
AANR expects the Virginia camp will attract kids from Georgia, the Carolinas, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Hawkins' 22-year-old grandson, Steven Vickers, has been a camp counselor for years. Vickers, a student at Valencia Community College, said first-time campers are uptight about their nakedness for about a day, then easily shed their self-consciousness.
"They realize there are other people like they are, and they find it comforting. They see that other kids are going through puberty, too," he said.
For children, peer pressure discourages sexual conduct.
"Most of these kids have grown up together and they're more like family than friends. So it would be like going to a family reunion and hitting on someone. It's just not the thing to do," Vickers said.
There's nothing illegal about gathering in the buff on private property, even for children, as long as being nude doesn't mean being lewd.
"To be illegal, the line that has to be crossed is lascivious intent," Murtaugh said. "Rest assured that law enforcement will be very aware and vigilant about this."
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