New 40-acre LGBTQ-friendly wilderness experience camp opens on site of former nudist colony | Local News

JACKSONVILLE — A new nature camp aimed at giving the LGBTQ community a safe place to experience outdoor adventures has opened on the site of a former nudist settlement on Route 112 in Windham County.

Beaver Falls Base Camp opened over the winter, hosting private and public events, and is planning a full program of fun adventures for the LGBTQ community and general public starting this summer.

SJ Lupert is the Beaver Falls Base Camp Director and one of the team members of The Venture Out Project, a non-profit organization based in North Hampton, Mass., to recognize the transformative potential of the 40 acre former Abbotts Glen Nudist. Resort in Jacksonville in a wilderness adventure center for the LGBTQ community.

“We purchased this property to serve as a base camp for our travels, multi-day hiking, canoeing, rafting and backcountry wilderness tours,” Lupert said during a tour of the new facility. “This space is extremely inspiring. Almost all the structures were already there. It’s nice. We knew it could work the moment we first saw it.

Venture Out, a 501C-3 whose mission is to bring LGBTQ-plus people together outdoors, comfortable in nature, and to provide safe and fun spaces for queer, trans, and LGBTQ-plus people can gather, purchased the property in August 2021 and renovated the facilities and grounds as they prepare for the upcoming summer and fall seasons, well ahead of winter.

In addition to backcountry trips and outdoor adventure events, Beaver Falls Base Camp also hosts “frontcountry” events, such as carpentry classes for queer artists in the fall. , an ax skills workshop, a nature photography class with a transgender photographer who is also a world-class mountaineer, and a forest bathing seminar, which is a meditation retreat in the woods. Almost all events are already sold out.

“So now we’re trying to figure out what our capacity is and what our community wants and needs,” says Lupert. “We had over seventy people here last weekend, both camping and staying at the cabins and facilities. It was awesome.

“We are trying to realistically figure out how many of these events we can do. We also want to include people who might not be ready for a three-day backpacking adventure, so we also have heated cabins and camping spaces for those people. We recently installed a hot tub, and it has a gym and a great outdoor sauna for people to use.”

Base Camp’s demographic is the 20-60 crowd, but they also plan to do some youth-focused backpacking trips over the summer and have even booked a “senior trip” for the older crowd, but they aim to include everyone.

“We love this intergenerational mix. He provides a breadth of knowledge and experience that we think is great,” Lupert said.

They also plan “sober” trips for those who don’t drink alcohol and other “niche” experiences as time and staff permit.

To keep the business afloat and help cover overhead, Venture Out also rents out the facility to any groups who want to stay at camp. They currently have bookings and interest in several weddings, corporate retreats and family reunions, as well as the adventures and classes they are planning for the LGBTQ community.

“We’re pretty full for the summer so far,” Lupert said. “We want to balance private events with what we believe is our core mission, which is to create safe spaces for the LGBTQ-plus crowd.”

“We also recognize that not everyone will be able to afford a week-long retreat or event, so we’ve created a huge sliding scale and several scholarships to help with that,” Lupert said. “We want it to be as affordable as possible so everyone can be a part of it.”

Lupert said there has been no response from the community so far, but expects a reaction after it begins advertising.

“I’m curious what the reaction will be,” Lupert said. “I think we’re still a bit of a hidden gem. We have many interesting neighbors with many opinions, politically diverse. I do think, however, that Vermont is a “live and let live” atmosphere. I guess we’ll see.

“I’m not sure there’s anything else like it anywhere,” Lupert said. “It’s unique. I think we can make a huge difference here, and we want everyone to be part of it. Everyone is welcome. We specifically want the LGBTQ plus community to have a space where they can gather outdoors in a beautiful environment where they feel safe and don’t have to worry about gathering in large groups,” said Lupert. “The comments we’ve received are, ‘It’s just us, our own space. We didn’t have to worry about anything. We could shut off the outside world for a little while. It’s so important and precious. straight guys have these kind of places all the time. We think it’s important to provide that to our community.

For more information on signing up for any of the Beaver Falls Base Camp offerings, or to view the schedule of upcoming events, visit www.basecampbeaverfalls.com.