|Former president Bob Mogliore looks out over the pool at Crocus Grove Nudist community. (QMI Agency file photo)
WINNIPEG - No more will everyone just hang out at a Manitoba nudist campground, as the park's owners try to better cover their costs by limiting their exposure to hefty water improvement bills.
After more than four decades of a "clothing-optional" attitude, what's been known as Crocus Grove Campground is changing its name this month to keep in step with a shift away from nudity among its users.
The newly named Sandhill Pines RV Park and Campground, about 40 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, is requiring campers to begin wearing clothes when out and about at the facility, so that its owners can try to attract more customers and maintain their site's viability.
"It's too bad that it's had to go this route. That's just the way it's happened," Susan Ryynanen, who owns the park with husband Ray, said Thursday.
"We've had declining numbers in terms of clothing-optional campers, and we have to do something differently."
The 60-campsite park is asking users and guests to wear clothes for the first time since it opened in 1969. The owners say it's because of new federal and provincial regulations requiring that facilities like private campgrounds chlorinate their tap water and undertake related engineering studies.
"The cost is going to be between $15,000 and $50,000, depending on the size of the campground, to comply," explained Susan. The Rynnanens had continued to allow nudity since purchasing the park in the Rural Municipality of Brokenhead more than three years ago.
Because their revenue potential is "extremely limited" by appealing to a naturist niche market, Ryynanen said, it's necessary to woo a wider array of campers.
"We just have to cope with the additional costs, and maintain the same size of campground," she added at the park on Provincial Road 317, where the couple live.
"So we need to go public and expand our horizons."
To distance the park from the nudity image, she said, they're using advertising and signage under the Sandhill Pines name and "don't have any affiliation with Crocus Grove at all any more."
The end of Crocus Grove's nudity, however, doesn't mean campers can't go naked anywhere in that region east of Lake Winnipeg. Ryynanen pointed out that the Patricia Beach area, a short drive north, continues to maintain a "clothing-optional" section along the lake.
The shift doesn't appear to be steering users away.
After talking to campers who have regularly used the park, Ryynanen said about 98% have indicated they'll hang around -- even if not hanging out.
"They understand. They're here because they love camping," she said.
"Everybody is sad and disappointed that we can't maintain the clothing-optional status, but the reality is that the big draw here is camping and being out in nature. It's a bit of a change, but not a complete change."