Sunday, June 22, 2008

Paradise Gardens in Ohio

This is the first of what I hope will be a series of reports on naturist/nudist venues in the Midwest. Most information on the Internet is done from the point of view of a journalist, who is usually more interested in the fact that there are actually naked people there, or from a promotional aspect in the way of a commercial web site, which does not always serve as a model for "truth in advertising".

And just to be honest up front, I am a naturist, so my point of view will be slanted, too. I understand that these venues are struggling to maintain themselves in the face of declining memberships, and a conservative political climate which seeks to label all forms of nudity as criminal. Also, I have no personal or professional ties to any landed naturist groups, so I have no reason to favor any particular place, and all my reports will be based upon first-time experiences. Perhaps in the future I will provide follow-up reports as they are warranted.

Paradise Gardens is located on 34 acres of land northwest of Cincinnati, just minutes from Interstate 275. A map can be found here. Facilities include clubhouse, campsites, fishing pond, hiking trail, sunbathing lawn, large pool, sauna, hot tub, volleyball court, children's playground, and more.

As with all nudist venues, it's strongly recommend that visitors call first at 513-385-4189, since entry to the park is by automatic gate with call box. We arrived shortly after 10 AM on a Saturday to find the grounds virtually deserted, with only a handful of employees and residents at the clubhouse. We received a very friendly greeting, and a 20% discount was applied towards the ground fees upon presentation of our AANR or TNS membership cards. Although it is not stated on the park web site, day visitors are limited to being on the grounds between the hours of 10AM and 6 PM. Apparently only visitors staying overnight are welcome at evening events. Again, it's best to call ahead and clarify any of the details for your visit.

Take note that Paradise Gardens is not clothing-optional, meaning that everyone is expected to be nude on the property. First-time visitors are given some consideration. Singles, couples and families are welcome.

There are no lockers at the facility, so day visitors need to carry around certain necessities (towel, sunscreen, hydration, food, footwear). There seems to be plenty of parking close to the clubhouse so it was not particularly difficult going back and forth to the car all day, but I basically had to carry my keys around all day with me in a small pouch. I did not see anyone wearing a fanny pack. While the venue appeared to be more than safe, I am reluctant to leave valuables in an unlocked car anywhere.

Since there was no activity when we arrived, we decided to hike around the grounds. We were surprised to find so many well-developed campsites dotted throughout the hill surrounding the clubhouse. Most were small trailers, a few were elaborate tents, and many of the sites were neatly cleared and landscaped, some with decks and patios. It appears that many of the members live here for a significant portion of the year.

People were very friendly, waving and saying hello as we walked by. A few were up early making improvements on their sites. We stumbled upon the hiking trail and ventured back down the hill. The trail is not very long but is easy to follow and adequately cleared. We came upon one member hiking the trail wearing only flip-flops and toting a large can of Miller Beer. He told us that there are a lot of deer in the surrounding woods, once seeing as many as 15 together at one time.

A word about footwear. Good athletic shoes and socks are a very good idea if you are planning on walking the property. While most of the roads are paved, there are large areas with gravel, and the grassy areas surrounding the fishing lake is sloped. Flip-flops are fine if you are planning on staying near the clubhouse or on the paved areas, and barefoot only seems practical on the well-maintained grassy sunbathing area.

Still looking for something to do, we ventured into the clubhouse where there is a dance floor, some tables and chairs, a bar with a television, a pool table, and dart boards. There are many board games on a shelf that appear to get little use. We dropped 50 cents into the pool table, and when racking up the balls we discovered that all the balls rolled slowly over to one side of the table. Needless to say I do not recommend the pool table unless the club does some repairs. If you like to play darts, it's best to bring your own because the darts on the shelves were for the most part broken or missing flights.

Let's face it - most people do not go to nudist venues to play pool or darts, but it would be nice to see an improvement in the PG clubhouse so that visitors could make better use of the facility. I'm sure that on dance nights the place is rocking.

I brought my own sandwich and bottled water, but the club has a big grill running at lunchtime for burgers and brats. For 5 bucks you can get a hot sandwich and a soda, and folks I talked to seemed to enjoy the food. Also, in the clubhouse, there is a refrigerator filled with cold beverages for 75 cents each, paid by the honor system.

By lunchtime, the grassy area was beginning to fill up with sunbathers. The club has only a few lounge chairs so it's best to bring your own if you don't like lying on the ground. There is plenty of shade on the south side of the lawn if you want to get out of the sun.

On their web site, Paradise Gardens state that "People of virtually every age, shape and size are visitors or members here". For the most part that appeared to be true, except that I saw almost no children all day long. Aside from a couple in the pool early in the day, there were no young nudists, and the very nice playground area was never used. The pool area also has many games and pool toys, but again, no children were around all day.

The pool is billed as Olympic size and it is very large. It is completely enclosed with glass and a fiberglass roof, which makes the pool area very hot and humid. While a pool is often the centerpiece of activity at nudist venues, not so at Paradise Gardens, where only a few people were to be found swimming at any given time all day long. There is a ping-pong table inside the pool area, and after playing for 5 minutes we began to contemplate moving the table outside where the 82 degree weather felt air-conditioned compared to the air inside. We instead showered and got in the water, which felt cool at first, but after a few minutes felt nearly as warm as the air. I'm sure the pool is great in cooler weather when being nude out of doors is not practical, so it's a trade-off.

The pool/clubhouse complex also houses toilets with privacy doors, open showers, a sauna, and a hot tub which I never got around to using. A hot tub on an 80+ degree day is not enticing, but I'm sure it gets crowded in the cooler evenings.

Getting back outside, we decided to play some basketball, but their only ball was popped, and the portable basket and pole was damaged. After finding someone who knew the rules, we tacked the game of petanque, which is similar to bocce ball. This went much better. The petanque gravel pit is good and the club has six sets of metal balls with which to play. At this time some corn hole games sprang up on the lawn area. Take note that while the lawn area is large enough to accomodate sunbathers and corn hole gamers, there is not sufficient grass area for badminton or frisbee without inconveniencing sunbathers, and there is no miniten court.

The volleyball court is very nice and surrounded by a high chain link fence. The folks at PG appear to take their volleyball very seriously, and several of the folks on the court participate in the annual White Thorn Volleyball Superbowl. While players of all skill-levels are welcomed and encouraged to play, it can be intimidating to be on the court with so many experienced players. Once a game got going it made for good spectating.

Down by the fishing pond there are paddle boats and a canoe, which went unused all day by my observation. There is a small gazebo in which relaxing massages were being administered, and this seemed to be popular all day long. There is no swimming in "Bass Lake" and you would have to be very brave to even contemplate taking a dip anyway.

The Paradise Gardens web site indicated that the facility is for sale to the "right person or persons", so if you are interested, call or visit.

All in all, I enjoyed my visit very much. The minor inconveniences were more than overshadowed by the friendly people, the beautiful surroundings, and the relaxed atmosphere. Any criticism I have expressed in this observational review are meant only as information so that potential visitors know what to expect. Paradise Gardens is a great place for a first time experience, or to take the entire family.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 comments:

DreadFree said...

Great report. Glad to see you're writing again. You were missed.

Anonymous said...

Great blog and keep up the good work! Would love to see you at the Whitethorn Superbowl and write a story on it.