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DeAnza gets dressed
Does the forced cover-up at DeAnza Springs nudist resort echo a larger trend?
A recent decision by DeAnza Springs Resort’s management marks a significant turning point in the history of one of America's largest and most remote nudist resorts. After nearly three decades of providing a place for naturists to embrace the freedom and comfort of social nudity, DeAnza Springs Resort has decided to adopt a clothing-mandatory policy, they announced on Monday.
DeAnza’s nudist history
DeAnza Springs Resort started its journey as a fairly underutilized textile campground, once known as 'Thousand Trails'. The site was purchased in 1997 by Dave and Helen Landman, a couple who saw potential in the spacious, scenic, and secluded space.1 They named the club DeAnza Springs Resort—possibly in homage to a former SoCal nudist club called the DeAnza Trail Club which existed in the 1940s-50s—and they saw their project blossom into a premier California nudist destination over the next several years.
The resort's sprawling 523 acres, nestled 74 miles east of San Diego and a mere five miles north of the Mexican border, offered the best of the stark Californian desert and verdant oasis, providing some of the finest nude hiking opportunities in the United States. The seclusion and expansive beauty of the resort were once its greatest assets. The rich wildlife, diverse terrain, and spectacular views formed the perfect backdrop for a naturist paradise.
Unfortunately, changing times and a shift in ownership led to a steady decline in the resort's nudist clientele. Dave and Helen Landman struggled to keep DeAnza properly maintained, and the operation suffered a slow decline. In 2021, the Landmans sold the property to non-nudists Kevin Cho and Luke Wasyliw.2 With fresh perspectives and visions, the new owners embarked on a journey to breathe new life into the desert gem. This revitalization plan culminated in the creation of Nomadic Wellness Resort, envisioned as a sacred space for wellness, healing, artistic expression, and self-discovery. Drawing influence from destinations like Joshua Tree, Tulum, and Burning Man, they aimed to offer an escapist experience. The resort was redesigned with geodesic domes, glamping tents, and RV hookups, and the capacity to accommodate up to 1,500 guests. They also opted to split the club into a textile half and a nudist half.
The transition was met with mixed reactions from the DeAnza Springs Resort residents, who have had to adjust their long-established ways of life. While some welcomed the fresh energy brought in by the new ownership, others moved away, unprepared for the drastic shift. Some predicted the change would mark the first step toward the club going “textile”. Those prognosticators have now been proven right.
Just one day after playing host to the 2023 AANR West annual convention, the resort announced the decision to become a clothes-mandatory resort on Monday, July 31st. According to a post by AANR West director Linda Weber on Twitter, the club cites “a lack of support from nudists patronizing the resort” as the chief reason for the policy change. Their announcement went out to club members by email.
According to the announcement, effective September 1, 2023, clothing will be mandatory in all common areas, and by October 30, 2023, the clothing requirement will extend to all areas within the park premises.
“This business decision was challenging, requiring extensive time and effort to evaluate all available options,” DeAnza Springs Resort owner Luke Wasyliw told Planet Nude. “Ultimately, it boiled down to a lack of support from the naturist community, which compelled us to reconsider our business model. Approximately 2.5 years ago, we acquired the property with high hopes and experimented with numerous strategies and approaches. However, despite our best efforts, we could not achieve the necessary growth and success. As a result, we had to make the tough call to change our business model and adapt to new circumstances.”
For avid nudists who have invested in the ownership of a site at DeAnza, the policy change might be more trying than it appears on the surface. To invest in residence in a nudist camp or club means a real commitment to a nude-friendly lifestyle, which this sort of policy change might seriously put a damper on.
One such nudist is Claudia Kellersch, a site holder and early member of DeAnza Springs Resort for 25 years who held her own nude wedding there in 2002 and subsequently raised her son there. For Claudia, the latest change is more than a little troubling.
“I was deeply disappointed that Luke made this change prior to our announced nude 5K on September 24, the Bare Booty,” Kellersch told Planet Nude, “I already prepaid my membership into 2024, and since I recently invested several thousands of dollars into renovation, fences painted, new outdoor lighting and more, I will continue to enjoy my lease.”
When asked if she felt this problem was part of a larger trend or unique to DeAnza, Kellersh said, “It is unique in that the previous owner sold to a group of investors who want a return faster than others. It follows the sad history of Swallows Sun Island also in San Diego County, and I am afraid that the owners are free not to renew our leases.”
As DeAnza’s announcement made clear, this story is still developing and more information may yet arise. We will try to keep this post updated with new developments.
A growing trend?
A once thriving nudist resort turning to a 'textile' policy is indeed a significant shift. It serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle faced by nudist resorts and parks in attracting and maintaining clientele. Just in the last five years, U.S. naturist resorts either closing down or going textile include Sun Meadow in Idaho, Berkshire Vista in Massachusetts, Juniper Woods in New York, Abbott's Glen in Vermont, Bell Acres in Georgia, Sun Ray Hills in Wisconsin, Sunshine Gardens in Michigan, Armadillo Ranch in Texas, and Cedar Creek in South Carolina, and this list is by no means comprehensive. When you start adding clubs that have gone down the other route of rebranding as a swinger or “lifestyle” club, the list gets even longer.
This trend underscores the importance of ongoing support and active participation from the nudist community in preserving these unique spaces. However, individual nudists don’t hold much power to change the fate of clubs that fail to provide a competitive reason to keep patronizing their grounds. For DeAnza’s leadership to place the blame for this shift on a lack of support from nudists seems disingenuous after making phased changes to reduce the club’s nudist use.
“I’m always surprised by the blame-the-customer argument,” Stéphane Deschênes, owner of Bare Oaks Family Naturist Resort, told Planet Nude in response to DeAnza’s change. “If a place doesn’t offer something that people value, they should not succeed. Yet several people in the discussion seem to argue that people have a duty to support resorts. I’ve also often heard business owners blame the customer base for their failure. I’m not sure how that can make any sense in their head.”
Yes, nudists should support nudist resorts and events, but likewise, nudist resorts are duly obliged to support nudists, especially the ones who prop up the resort with membership and site ownership—at least if they want to retain that business. As times and demographics shift, nudist resorts must learn how to compete in an increasingly complex market. DeAnza is clearly facing an existential dilemma in this sense, but it seems rather clear to this author that the loss of this once-great nudist space is rooted more in the failures of leadership than membership.
As for Claudia Kellersch, she seems determined to enjoy her nudism off the grounds of the park, “I will continue my nude hikes, as we can take our clothes off as soon as we are off property, and there are 500 acres of wilderness of Anza Borrego Desert State Park surrounding DeAnza.”
No doubt, this announcement may be met with mixed feelings, and we encourage our readers to share their thoughts and experiences. After all, naturism is about fostering an open, inclusive, and empathetic community. Change is inevitable, but hopefully the spirit of nudism will continue to thrive. 🪐
What do you think? Do you feel that this policy change is a part of a larger trend of club closures, or is it unique to DeAnza? Is there anything naturists/nudists can do?
Updated 8/2/2023 @ 2pm PST: The article was updated to include a quotation from Luke Wasyliw of DeAnza Springs Resort.
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Sikes, John Jr. “DeAnza Springs Resort Now Open”. Dec 1997. The Bulletin.
Demon, Beth. “The Reinvention of Jacumba Hot Springs”. Jul 17, 2023. San Diego Magazine. https://www.sandiegomagazine.com/travel/jacumba-hot-springs-reinvention/article_4228f6a4-21d4-11ee-8ede-9387b524d004.html