At first blush - it may not seem like much but this is Alabama's fourth nudist resort complete with pool, pool house, spa and seven rooms furnished for overnight stays. It joins 260 others in the US - who manage a 400 million dollar US industry, a billion dollars in North America. This new one called "The Retreat" officially opened March 15 in Blount County.
"We had a lot of people come in. We had a barbecue. We had people everywhere I couldn't keep up with them. It was a beautiful madhouse," said Cindi Beasley, one of The Retreat's co-owners.
"Really happy. It went a whole lot faster than I assumed it would in the beginning," co-owner Lee Beasley added.
Cindi and Lee Beasley started this project last summer. That's when we first met them.
The last time we were here, we just saw fence posts in the ground. Now the fence has been filled in. In addition to that, you can see tall aluminum siding at the entrance to the camp to block unwanted views.
Last year – online - some of their Blount County neighbors weren't very happy with them opening this resort. Several told us that off-camera, as well.
Today, neighbors say they can't hear them, neither do they pay any attention to them including neighbor Michelle Ragusa who now has an up-close view of a portion of the Beasley's more than a quarter mile-long fence. But, that doesn't mean she's happy with being the Beasley's neighbor.
"I really don't approve of it because of my children being right here," Ragusa said. "If you go down this road, as you can see, this road that the school bus drops them off on, you can see everything that's in his yard."
That's one of Ragusa's main worries. Her 13-year-old daughter also worries about what her friends say.
"They're like, we know where you live, you live near the nudist colony," Neziha Ragusa said. "They ask if we see people like naked out there."
Cindi Beasley said no one can see any nudity. As tall as the fence is on the edges of their property, there's another surrounding the pool. Nudity is only allowed there, in the back of the house, and inside this building, which includes a kitchen, spa and dining tables.
The day we did our interviews there were people at their resort, but they did not want to be on camera.
"The main thing, we want happiness here," Lee Beasley explained. "We ask everyone when they come to the gate, leave their drama, their problems outside the gate and just have a good time."
And it appears a lot of people do just that.
In 2006, a naturist education foundation poll found nearly three-quarters of adults polled thought nude sunbathing should be allowed in designated areas, although that dropped from a 2000 poll of 80 percent.
That same poll indicated that nearly 30 percent of the public has skinny-dipped in a friend's jacuzzi or backyard swimming pool, visited a clothing-optional beach or lake, or gone to one of the 250+ nudist parks scattered across the country.
A couples-only campsite, "The Retreat" joins "Gymno Vita" as another nudist resort in Alabama.
Gymno-Vita and owner Bob Truett have been welcoming couples and families to its 110-acre secluded resort for 34 years.
"We don't want to embarrass anybody and we don't want to try to proselytize to anybody to become nudists. But we would urge everybody to accept your body and to not be scared of it," Truett said.
Their neighbor, Steve Phillips, had no complaints.
"I have other good neighbors too, but two of the best ones are the nudist camp and the cemetery, neither one of them give me any trouble at all," Phillips said.
Truett is very proud of what he's built here but said he continues to defend his way of life.
"Because this country has become much more prudish over the last few years than it used to be," he said.
Some of that defense comes as others assume it's a dirty or tawdry way of life for swingers and pedophiles. Truett became emotional when I asked him how safe children are at his park.
"They are safer here than any public place they can go. Every lady that comes here is the grandmother of every child. So we're very careful about that," he said.
Truett said he checks every license of visitors and even had to kick out a pedophile discovered during one of those checks.
"It was on a week day, there wasn't a lot of people around, he was here with a lady that I think he found on the internet and they came in here and we checked him out immediately and had him out within an hour after he got here," he explained.
Back in Blount County, the Beasleys do the same - checking the driver's licenses of their campers.
"Let's be honest -- not every pedophile, not every sex offender has a record. So these right here and those eyes of his are the best indicator of what a person is or what they're going to do," Cindi Beasley said.
So far, there haven't been any problems, and the Beasleys maintain they are good neighbors as they continue to work on their three-acre resort, which has cost them about $120,000 to build.
"We have teachers, we have judges, we have attorneys, we have police officers, housewives and everyone seems to have some problem, and yet they wind up sharing it, and it kind of loosens the load a little bit for everybody when they leave," Cindy Beasley said.
It hasn't been all rosy. The Beasley's neighbor Michelle Ragusa blames them for rupturing her water line. The Beasleys maintain they repaired it and they hope to keep the lines of communication open to neighbors as their business venture dreams come true.
In our investigation, we checked with the Blount County Sheriff and the district attorney's office, and while the district attorney said there have been some upset people, there have been no formal complaints filed against the Beasley's.
Alabama's others nude resorts are Bluff Creek Falls Campground in Steele, and Springcreek Campground in Geneva. That's in South Alabama. Both are male-only clothing optional resorts.
1350 13th Avenue
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