News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 3, 2012

Nudists fear less peace with I-69

INDOT may consider 'visual screening'

KIRKSVILLE, Ind. — Patrons of a southern Indiana nudist camp founded more than 60 years ago are worried the Interstate 69 extension slated to run past their rural resort will ruin its tranquil setting and threaten their privacy.

An elevated portion of the 142-mile Evansville-to-Indianapolis highway extension soon will be built past Fern Hills Club, a private family nudist camp that opened in 1947 in southwestern Monroe County about five miles southwest of Bloomington.

Carol Ripple, who owns and operates the camp with two of her sisters, told the Herald-Times for a story published today that its nearly 200 members are worried the highway’s noise and traffic will cost them the solitude they’ve enjoyed for decades.

“People are always saying how peaceful it is out here. They leave all their troubles, and their clothes, behind when they come through the gate,” she said.

The 75-acre camp’s members spend time in campers, recreational vehicles, tents and small homes built on the wooded grounds. Hundreds were expected for this week’s annual Rock Naked event, featuring the house band the Nudie Blues.

The camp, located near the town of Kirksville, boasts a 52-foot round swimming pool, a volleyball court, a four-room motel, a restaurant and a clubhouse.

Soon its woods will abut a portion of the 142-mile highway.

Red plastic ties on adjacent trees indicate where state highway crews have been surveying the property. A golf cart ride up one of the camp’s many trails leads to a spot where campers can look through the woods and see the area where the highway soon will run.

Although the central part of the nudist camp is not near the highway’s right of way, club members worry about the intrusion of interstate noise and curious gawkers in passing vehicles on the highway, which will be elevated in the portion abutting the camp’s property.

“If they elevate the highway, there’s a good chance people will drive by and see some nudists,” said Jawn Bauer, a Bloomington lawyer who represents Fern Hills Club.

Fern Hills’ members had hoped the Indiana Department of Transportation would agree to build a 20-foot-high concrete sound barrier along the property’s edge at the highway right of way line. But INDOT spokeswoman Cher Elliott said federal standards must be met for such a sound wall, and the Fern Hills site did not meet the criteria for one to be built.

Elliott said the highway will be at least a quarter of a mile from the nudist camp.

However, since the highway will be elevated in the area, a study now under way will determine if INDOT will consider what is called “visual screening,” which involves planting trees and other vegetation to block public view.

Elliott said it’s not likely passing motorists will catch glimpses of nude campers.

“For someone at 70 to 80 mph to identify from the highway what they might be looking at, it is unlikely,” she said.

Elliott said the state has been working with the nudist camp’s owners to mitigate the effects of the highway and wants “to be good neighbors.”


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