AANR Club Spotlight
First Appearing in the AANR Bulletin Newsletter - April 2012

 

Berkshire Vista – A Spectacular Resort

By Pete Williams

Berkshire Vista is nestled in the forest of the Berkshire hills in western Massachusetts.

Berkshire Vista Resort, the historic nudist resort in western Massachusetts that abuts the New York border, is one of the American Association for Nude Recreation’s (AANR) greatest successes. The club quietly added to its storied history recently with a landmark court victory.

Dan and Ginny Bookstein, who purchased the resort in 1994, spent nearly two years between 2008 and 2010 battling the local planning board in Hancock, Massachusetts, over the status of a stretch of 350 feet of Kittle Road that leads from the resort’s lot line to the front gate. While the Booksteins maintained that it’s a public road that has been used as such for 200 years, the planning board argued that it was merely a driveway.

Virginia and Dan Bookstein, owners of Berkshire Vista Resort, warm up by the William Kittle House fireplace.

That distinction, Dan Bookstein says, meant the difference in $1 million in property value. The Booksteins won the first court decision and won twice more on appeal as city officials took the case all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court.

At each step of the legal process, city lawyers spoke in a derogatory manner about the club’s nudist status, hoping it would sway judges. “Each time they argued that we’re just a nudist resort or a nudist colony,” Dan Bookstein said. “The lesson here is that justice is expensive. But if you feel like you have a significant case and you’re right, it might be worth the money to fight it.”

The favorable decision enabled the Booksteins to sell off one stretch of property on the higher outskirts of the resort and purchase an additional 33-acre parcel. That property, combined with another 56-acre site, will be combined and subdivided into three lots of roughly 30 acres apiece that will be sold as luxury home sites.

It’s the latest saga in a remarkable history that dates back to 1956, when the club was founded as Birch Acres. Convenient to Boston and New York City in the densely wooded area known as the Berkshires, it was a popular retreat for nudists looking to get away from it all quickly.

The previous owners did not handle the finances well, however, and in 1994 the Booksteins bought the property at a government auction for $220,000.

The Booksteins, who are non-nudists, knew they were bidding on a nudist resort, but did not initially plan to keep it as such. The property, 128 acres at the time, consists of rolling hillside tucked between dense forest and rustic farmland that provides breathtaking views of the nearby Jiminy Peak ski resort, especially at night when the lights of the resort cast a glow over the property. If the Booksteins had doubts at the time about keeping it a nudist resort, it was easy to understand why. The sale, which took place at the resort, occurred with several feet of snow on the ground. Many of the RVs and campsites were either covered or obscured.

Birch Acres members urged the Booksteins to keep the property a nudist club. A team of business students from nearby North Adams State College conducted a study and concluded that remaining nudist was the best option for the resort.

“Folly Pond” situated just outside the front gate sports a fountain that is illuminated at night. Jiminy Peak stands in the distance in this late spring photo.

It didn’t take the Booksteins long to realize the property’s unrealized potential as a nudist resort. After briefly changing the name to Renaissance Resorts they settled on Berkshire Vista, which reflects both the area and the spectacular mountain views. They purchased an adjacent 78-acre parcel to ensure that Berkshire Vista would retain its tranquil setting. The resort actually seems much bigger since it’s connected to a heavily wooded state park of more than 15,000 acres. An annex to the Appalachian Trail is located nearby.

The Berkshires are a popular vacation getaway, attracting residents of Connecticut and Massachusetts much like the Catskills draw New Yorkers and the Poconos attracts people from Pennsylvania.

A view from the pool deck - The tennis courts are just to the left. Ahead is the sunning lawn and the William Kittle House sits in the distance.

The Berkshire region is a hotbed of culture and the arts, home to the Norman Rockwell Museum, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Williams College Museum of Art. Performing arts attractions include Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, which is the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra; Shakespeare & Company in Lenox; and summer theatre festivals such as the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

Berkshire Vista holds the distinction of being the closest nudist resort in the country to organized ski areas. Until the Booksteins moved from their home outside the property into the historic William Kittle House on the grounds, Berkshire Vista was open in the winter months and some visitors would cross country ski the two miles to Jiminy Peak and Brodie Mountain Complex. Some brave souls would even cross-country ski nude on the trails around Berkshire Vista.

The rear deck of the pool bar and grill is a great place to unwind and offers a view of Jiminy Peak in the distance.

The Booksteins have put more than $1.5 million into the property over the years. They initially thought of tearing down the William Kittle House, which was built in 1771, and had endured more than two centuries of neglect. Instead, they restored the home’s country charm.

These days, the resort is open from early May through Columbus Day and features a full complement of nudist facilities, including a swimming pool, two large hot tubs, courts for p»tanque, tennis, and volleyball, a massive clubhouse with restaurant, bar and dance floor, 150 RV sites with flushing toilets, and nine park model cottages for overnight accommodations.

The William Kittle House serves as the Bookstein’s year-round residence. Just to the right and above the house are several park model structures that make up the “Cottage Village” that include bedroom, kitchenette, and air conditioning.

The property is divided into three sprawling lawn areas for camping, each at a different elevation with its own tongue-in-cheek nickname. The middle portion is “Snob Hill” in honor of those who moved uphill and now look down on the “Ghetto,” which contrary to its name is actually a lovely stretch of greenery and the original campground. Those seeking even higher elevations can climb a steep hill beyond Snob Hill to “Heaven,” which opened in the 1990s.

The William Kittle House is now the Booksteins’ full-time residence, though they do wedge a few people in during the popular end-of-summer Labor Day “Spaghetto” celebration, perhaps the resort’s signature event. Spaghetto, a spaghetti cookout that began in the Ghetto section in 1981, has grown to a weekend-long event featuring live music and serving more than 300 people The Booksteins have remained non-nudists and Dan Bookstein says he couldn’t help but note that irony during his recent litigation. He was attacked for being a nudist club owner even though he’s the rare non-nudist club owner – one who felt discrimination initially from the nudist community for not being a nudist.

A view from the clubhouse - The lower camping field, fondly referred to as “The Ghetto” is well-populated. In the distance is the Jiminy Peak ski area.

“AANR treats me very well, but we were discriminated back then for being non-nudists,” Bookstein said. “Given the struggles we face in the nudist community dealing with the non-nudist world, we should be careful not to discriminate against non-nudists.”

The Booksteins continue to make improvements to Berkshire Vista, from two new generators that ensure the resort is never without power to wireless Internet coverage provided throughout the resort. Other recent improvements include supplying music to the pool bar complex, upgrading the Har-Tru tennis court, adding six premier RV sites near the clubhouse to give the club 150 total, and refurbishing the back deck with new pool bar furniture.

It’s all a far cry from those early days in 1994 not long after the Booksteins purchased the property. Back then the electrical lines were so close to the grass that it was not uncommon to get shocked. Although the resort had its breathtaking setting, the amenities were not nearly what they are now.

“We were so shocked that we won the bidding and didn’t know what we were going to do with it,” Bookstein says. “Now it’s one of the most beautiful properties for nudism in the country.”

For more information about the club, log onto www.berkshirevista.com.


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