Fitchville campground thriving under new ownership

mlboose@norwalkreflector.com FITCHVILLE After the initial firestorm of controversy with the news that Freedom Valley Campground would be the state's first all-male campground catering to gays, the new owners were a little concerned about the community's reaction. Their sexual orientation wasn't a big deal in Cleveland, but they had chosen a rural, conservative area and a gay campground in Fitchville was a big change. A successful opening this spring, including about 200 campers over Memorial Day weekend, has allayed those concerns and they now looking forward to adding to the local economy.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

 

mlboose@norwalkreflector.com

FITCHVILLE After the initial firestorm of controversy with the news that Freedom Valley Campground would be the state's first all-male campground catering to gays, the new owners were a little concerned about the community's reaction.

Their sexual orientation wasn't a big deal in Cleveland, but they had chosen a rural, conservative area and a gay campground in Fitchville was a big change.

A successful opening this spring, including about 200 campers over Memorial Day weekend, has allayed those concerns and they now looking forward to adding to the local economy.

Michael Folkman and Jeff Boone said in January they simply wanted to have a place for gay men to safely enjoy camping. They are pleased with the season so far.

"We have a very good mix," Folkman said. "There's a real niche of gay campers." He said they have seasonal campers from as far away as Michigan and Indiana.

The men have special events planned throughout the summer, including line dancing classes, cookouts and sporting events. Friends and families are invited to join campers on two weekends during the season.

With several improvements already complete, they anticipate a growing number of campers as word of mouth gets out about their facility. Recreational vehicles are already parked in 27 of the 29 seasonal lots. Campers have added decks, awnings, lighting and landscaping to their rented spaces.

Foldman and Boone also have been busy improving the landscaping.

"When I was a homeowner, you would never have seen me doing any type of landscaping," Foldman said after he got down off his lawn tractor while mowing the front yard.

"On the other hand, I love it," Boone said. They agreed that their individual strengths and experiences are helping them build a success business for their retirement years.

Folkman and Boone split 14 acres off from the 53-acre parcel for their private residence and a new pool.

At the campground, they've added a bunkhouse with 12 beds and two grills and two cabins with one queen-size bed each. They've brought in more than 500 tons of gravel to improve the roads and walkways, built steps for guests to reach the lower property easier and stocked the pond with bluegill and largemouth bass.

They also sell liquid propane and firewood and have a store, laundry room, showers and toilets near the office.

They offer about 50 pull-through sites for recreational vehicles or pop-ups and other sites for primitive and tent camping.

The men also have added a disc jockey booth to the dance hall with an outside patio now covered by a tent, which will eventually be replaced by a permanent roof.

Movies and a bonfire are planned for Friday nights. Saturdays will feature a disc jockey or a themed party at the dance hall. Every third Saturday of the month, campers can join in a potluck meal.

Both Folkman and Boone said they are trying to be productive members of the local community.

"We've immersed ourselves in the local community," Boone said, including attending township meetings and using local contractors for work on the property. "The neighbors have been great."

He said they found a neighbor plowing snow out their drive one winter day who told them he just thought he could help them out a little.

"I'm sure our campers are adding to the local economy, too," Folkman said. "People may choose not to embrace our lifestyle, but economy is economy and we're good neighbors."

Carl Pay, who owns C &M's Country Cafe in Savannah with his wife Mary, said he has seen an increase in patrons due to Freedom Valley Campgrounds.

"We have no problems," Pay said. "They are good customers. They treat the waitresses with respect and they tip good."

Geri Spears works at New London Pizza House and her parents, Larry and Rita Fritz, own the business. Spears also said the patrons the restaurant gets from the campground are absolutely no problem. "It has been fine," she said. "We deliver out to the campground" and are glad to see new customers.

"The community as a whole has been phenomenal and we have good support," Folkman said. That's just what they wanted when moved from the hustle and bustle of Cleveland to Huron County to be part of the community."

Comments

AmandaReconwith

Next Spring my partner and I will have been together for 30 years and are seasonal campers at Freedom Valley. Having been raised on a large apple farm in Ohio I know and understand the spiritual connection between Mother Earth and their stewards. The people I meet in the community that surround Freedom Valley remind me of my childhood and the simple pleasures of life. All anyone really needs is love, food, water, and shelter. Everything else is meaningless, but a Christopher Collicott chandelier hanging over your picnic table wouldn't hurt!

http://i191.photobucket.com/albu...

http://www.chriscollicott.com/
Born in Essex, England, Christopher Collicott studied
graphic design at the Norwich School of Art and
graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After moving
to London he worked at a design studio creating models
for television commercials, print ads and album
covers, in his spare time designing gift items for a
functional art store in Covent Garden.

Christopher relocated to Los Angeles in 1982 and
continued with model-making for the motion picture and
television industry. He branched off into interior and
decorative design, creating the interior, furniture
and fixtures for Hot House, a home accessories store
in Soho, New York. The next few years saw him
introduce a line of decorative home accessories
combining unusual materials in non-traditional ways,
such as cement and glass vases and patinated metal
bowls supported by wrenches. These pieces - hand-made,
short-run and limited-edition - were sold in major
museum and design stores, and were featured in many
design magazines and books.

In 1990 Christopher pioneered the use of whimsical
designs for functional items, designing monkey- and
rabbit-shaped drawer and cabinet handles for a show
kitchen for Metropolitan Home magazine. The handles,
featured on the cover, were met with rave reviews and
the line was expanded to include more animals and
other kitchen hardware.

He moved to New York in 1999 and continued to create
unusual functional items, from contemporary cast-resin
wedding cake toppers available in cream, butterscotch
and chocolate finishes to bookends with a machine-age
style. These bookends, initially hand-made in a
limited edition, were put into production by
Kikkerland Design Inc. and led to a well received
product line which includes a series of mini LED
chandeliers, and "Toy soldier candle Holder"

Christopher has always been interested in paper
folding, paper sculpture and pop-up books, and has an
extensive collection dating back more than one hundred
years. Over the past few years he has created three
limited-edition, hand-printed and hand-assembled
pop-up books which are included in many museum and
university rare book collections.

Edging his way into architecture in 2002, he designed
StoneSpa near Union Square in Manhattan, from facade
to three-level interior including retail space and
secret garden. Taking as themes the tranquility of
water and the play of light, he used a subtle blending
of colors coupled with unusual materials and surfaces
to create a relaxing and soothing environment which
rewards the visitor with unexpected details. The spa
was featured on the cover of American Spa magazine and
was named one of New York's best spas by New York
magazine.

Since then, Christopher has designed four more day
spas, with the latest being the Chopra Center at
Manhattan's Dream Hotel.

harleygirl03

I just want to speak my part on homosexuals. I know alot of them including 1 being a family member. I can say that any of the ones that I have met are alot nicer than some of the people around Norwalk. I have met quite a few people around here that are prejudgemental. I was raised not judge someone by their looks, lifestle, how they dress, whether they came from money or not, and so on. I was raised to accpet anyone for who they are on the inside and not the out. And For those people that are saying that it is wrong or that is disgusting were you not raised with the state of mind that everyone in the world id the same on the inside. Everything else is just color, sexuality, race, age, gender. I have seen that the people that are complaining about it seems to be men. What if it was a female gay campground what would they be saing then? It honestly shouldn't matter. So for those that are complaing about it grow up and if you have kids then you should teach them that is is wrong to dicriminate agianst people no matter what your beliefs are. I myself have 2 children and would never teach them to prejudge someone but to actually get to know them for who they are.