Pasco County isn’t the first destination that most people think of when they plan a trip to Florida, but for people that like to live and vacation in the nude it’s Mecca. Several nudist (or naturist, as some of the adherents prefer to be called) resorts crowd this small county in northwest Florida. The warm climate, beautiful nature, and relatively sparse population makes it a perfect place for those yearning for a few weeks of living in their most natural state.
Nudism was introduced in Pasco County, Florida, by Lake Como Resort, which was founded in 1941 with the purchase of land around Lake Como in Lutz, Florida around 20 miles north of Tampa. The resort is a cooperatively owned community of naturists covering 200 acres of land, 111 of which are wetland and woodland reserve. Their core philosophy stems from what the original naturists in Germany introduced back in the 1900s. For them, naturism was a reaction to the rapid pace of the industrial revolution and the increasing density in urban centers. An interesting reaction, but one nonetheless.
“This was a ‘back-to-nature’ movement advocating freedom from restrictive clothing that men and women wore at the time, emphasis on sport, exercise and hygiene, and on diet reform.” Mike Kush from Lake Como explains. This closely aligns with the resort’s mission statement, “To preserve and promote our family nudist lifestyle and community, establish a positive image with government and community leaders, and cultivate our natural beauty while promoting environmental responsibility as a legacy for our future generations.”
For Kush, and other residents in the resort, nudism has nothing to do with sexuality and everything to do with the original natural freedom that was at the root of the philosophy behind it. But many in Pasco County, a very small community in the early days, couldn’t see it that way and, as you’d expect, there were entanglements with the local authorities.
In 1961, the then owner of Lake Como Resort, Art Coterill, defied a state law that would require nudist colonies to meet various stringent requirements including submitting to fingerprinting, listing prior criminal convictions, and providing character references. Feeling this law was an infringement of his rights, Coterill refused to comply and was jailed and fined. He took his case up to the Florida Supreme Court where the decision and the accompanying statute were overturned. Coterill was released as a hero to the nudists of Lake Como in 1962.
This would become one instance in a series of public harassment campaigns by the state and the media. 15 years later, in 1977, the Resort would be the target of a drug bust resulting in the arrest of several residents who would later be bailed out by other members. A largely pointless act that was mostly meant to stir up publicity for the sheriff who was running for reelection at the time, according to their account.
Later that year a woman resident was photographed nude without her knowledge by the Pasco County TV station. She successfully sued them over it. It wouldn’t be until 2016 when the County finally recognized Lake Como as a resort. On April 4th of that year they finally passed a resolution recognizing “the 75th anniversary of the establishment of naturism in Pasco County.”
According to Kush, Lake Como’s success made Pasco County an “easy choice” for the establishment of other nudist facilities. “Many of these were founded by members of Lake Como who may have had policy disagreements with the then private owners of Lake Como, or just had a different concept,” he explained.
As a result, nudism in Pasco County continues to thrive with about 13 resorts and neighborhoods in the area. The Guardian reported in 2019 that the area attracted 1 million naturist tourists and 10,000 who lived there permanently. For those residents and tourists, there is something unique and special about Pasco County. “I hear a lot of people say that they hate Florida, but those people are going to the wrong part of Florida.” Tena Alise, resident and event coordinator at Eden RV Resort said in an interview.
To her and other residents, Pasco County is a natural paradise and she thinks that’s why nudism really took off here. “Everyone here just has such an affinity for nature.” It’s a less developed part of Florida with strict wetlands protections. Palm trees dot the coast, the crystal clear water is calm and perfect for kayaking. At night, the stars shine unadulterated.
Eden RV, like many nudist resorts in the area, is aligned with Lake Como in their philosophy and is focused on community. “For those who live here full time or as snowbirds, a principle attraction is living in a safe community offering many social and recreational opportunities that may be enjoyed without the needless encumbrance of clothing that is of no function in the Florida climate.” Kush said.
“It’s a family.” Alise said, more simply.