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Secluded campground caters to gay clientele

 

The members-only campground, where clothing is optional, quietly opened last May.

 

By JIM ROSS

St. Petersburg Times, published January 14, 2001


INVERNESS -- Citrus County's hospitality industry has a new and unusual member: Camp David.

No, not the presidential retreat in Maryland. This Camp David occupies the old Shawnee Trail Campground site off State Road 44 E near the Sumter County line.

The campground is private and for members only. Though open to all adults, Camp David touts itself as being gay friendly. Though not a nudist colony, the camp permits guests to roam the grounds, or sunbathe, while in the buff.

Camp David opened in May with little fanfare. It did not advertise, seek mention in the county's tourism registry or join the Chamber of Commerce.

Chances are slim that people would notice the new business on their own: The camp sits 2 miles off SR 44, is surrounded by forest and swamp and is shielded by a locked wooden gate. People from the nearby scout camp and residences might not even notice the camp.

The owner, H. David Williams, apparently wishes to continue maintaining a low profile. He did not respond to a reporter's interview offer, and two men working at the camp office last week declined to provide their names.

But they did provide some information.

The campground is small, with 25 sites total for recreational vehicles and tents. Owners brought in white sand to serve as a makeshift beach around a small pond. There is a covered picnic pavilion, basketball hoop and general store for guests.

Camp David would like to provide canoes and kayaks, but the drought has made those plans obsolete. The watercraft are for sale.

The camp has more than 200 members, who in turn can recommend other people for membership and guest privileges. Members value the serenity and quiet they experience deep in the woods and consider the campground a retreat.

Some members stay for a week or more; others come from the North and stay all winter. While in Citrus, guests head to Disney or Tampa or other tourist spots. They also shop and dine in Inverness.

Camp owners said legal counsel had advised them that the "clothing optional" element of their business would not constitute a legal problem since the camp is secluded and on private property.

The camp was mentioned last week at the end of a Tourist Development Council meeting. Most council members and audience members had never heard of it.

"I wish them great success," said Mary Craven, the county's tourism program director.

 

 

 

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