Avatan, Minnesota’s largest nudist camp, has a swimming pool where unrelated adults and children can swim naked together.
An employee at Avatan said the camp is “family friendly” and is associated with the American Association of Nude Recreation.
The camp features overnight lodging, including cabins and RV hookups along with tenting sites, in addition to a kiddie pool and playground. Anyone who wants to tour the camp must do so in the nude.
An event poster shared online touts the camp as “Minnesota’s premier spot for nude pickleball.” It goes on to say that while Avatan only has one court, “the views are amazing.” The flyer calls the event family friendly.
I'll need to check my MN 2023 guide to socially acceptable norms, but I doubt "nude pickleball" is family-friendly. And this is outside the 494/694 fence around crazyville. No one needs that much pickle in pickleball. pic.twitter.com/IBOdL8l14d
— Jeremy Munson (@jeremymunson) May 31, 2023
According to Becky Strohmeier with Humans Against Groomers, the practice of children and adults swimming nude together is “wildly dangerous.”
Humans Against Groomers is a Minnesota organization that protects children from sexual predators.
“It’s abhorrent that the owners of Avatan knowingly provide a safe space for children to be preyed upon,” she said. “A child cannot legally consent to exposing their genitalia to complete strangers. This is nothing less than child abuse and needs to be shut down.”
Debbie, an office worker at Avatan who would not release her last name, said the camp has “strong rules,” and it’s natural for “unrelated” adults and children to swim together nude.
“We do everything by the book including background checks. Children are safe here,” she said. “We are very careful to respect everyone’s rights.”
She said children must be accompanied by a parent to swim in the pool.
In a post on the group’s Facebook page, Humans Against Groomers accuses the camp of “actively trying to lure children into their nudist camp.”
“If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck …” the post reads. The group urges members to contact the East Bethel Police Department and “respectfully express concerns” about the practice.
The camp, located in East Bethel, has been around for 60 years. According to Debbie, it is legal in Minnesota for children and adults to swim nude together.
“Only a certain breed of people will come to the club. It is hard to take off your clothes. It’s not for everyone, so it’s only for a certain few who like to practice naturalism,” she said.
The camp also offers nude yoga, bingo, and karaoke. She said nudist camps are for people who feel comfortable doing things naked.
“It’s a very freeing feeling. We have all kinds of people here and everyone gets along. We’ve got different religions, politics, different sizes and everybody just respects everyone,” she said.
Debbie said she has not always been a nudist, and she understands that some people do not approve of children and adults swimming together nude.
“I respect their opinion, but this place has been here for 60 years and we’re very safe on everything we do. We do background checks with everyone that comes in,” she said.
She said she’s protective of children when she’s at the pool.
“I know the parents are there with their children, too, but you always have to be careful,” she said.
Debbie also explained that women feel safe at Avatan, and the camp only allows “a certain amount of single men.”
Membership is around $500 for an individual and $1100 for a couple for the summer. The camp is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.