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 leaves.
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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 argue.
“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,” he said.
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 attorneys.
“We’ll make sure that no harm will come to children,” he said.