Virginia’s Camp Krama Offers Primitive Campsites
A sign placed at the entrance of Camp Karma in Bedford County, Va., reads “No Drama.”
For Eric LaBorie, who along with fiancé Linda Frisbee opened the 42-acre site in Moneta five weeks ago, the words can’t ring more true, according to the Lynchburg News and Advance.
“We just want people happy,” said LaBorie, a Philadelphia native who moved to Bedford four years ago from Rhode Island. “Leave your drama at the doorstep, come down and have a good time.”
The campground, located several miles from Virginia Highway 122 on Frisbee’s property off Stone Mountain Road, offers nearly 40 sites for “primitive” camping. That means no electricity, no vehicles — just a tent, a fireplace, the woods, the nearby Goose Creek and a “back to nature” environment near Smith Mountain Lake.
“It’s simple and basic,” LaBorie said. “What we found was a real need for people who want to stay in this area and enjoy nature.”
The rural, peaceful setting has comforted LaBorie, who in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks lost his wife of two years, Kathryn LaBorie, a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 175 that was crashed into the World Trade Center.
LaBorie had a memorial to his late wife built in a hayfield overlooking the entrance into the campground. A white picket fence surrounds a small area where a box of mementos to Kathryn is buried under flowers.
He watches sunsets there while walking his dog. Linda helped him design the memorial, he said.
“We did a lot in a very short amount of time,” Eric said of his time with Kathryn. “I was married at 32 and widowed at 34. Everything was perfect.”
Eric was working in a print shop in Boston as a graphic designer when news of the tragedy struck. He said he still has hard days coping with the loss, but has found happiness in his current place in life.
“I had to do something with my life and make a big change,” he said of moving to Virginia. “And I think this is my redemption. It’s a total change from the Northeast. It’s a huge change but it was necessary.”
He met Linda and fell in love with the area, he said. Linda moved to Bedford County more than 20 years ago and the two have been campers all their lives, he said.
Frisbee has been working on the Camp Karma project for the past 10 years, she said. The couple received a special-use permit in September 2009 from the Bedford County Board of Supervisors to operate the site despite some opposition from neighbors concerned with noise, traffic and trespassing The couple has invested $200,000 into the project, to have a main loop into the grounds laid with gravel and outhouses installed, LaBorie said. A second phase with eight sites for RVs and a bathhouse is planned but may take two to three years to complete, he said.
The campground is close to Goose Creek, where visitors can fish, and is open seven days a week. It will operate March through Nov. 15, hunting season, he said.
Despite the simplicity, LaBorie said rules would be in place. For example, the camp has “quiet hours” from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., only a single vehicle is allowed per site, children are to be supervised at all times, leashes for pets are required, alcohol is closely monitored and fireworks and firearms are prohibited.
LaBorie said he sold his house in Rhode Island and put the money into the project because he sees it as a “viable, long-term commitment.”
As far as his past, he said the Sept. 11 tragedy and his connection to it “is one of those life things that happens to you and you just deal with it.”
“I’m trying to make people remember 9-11,” LaBorie said. “I know it’s been nine years but it doesn’t go away for me. Every day it’s in my head.”
He referred to the family campground as the couple’s “retirement” and said he and Frisbee plan to be there for a long time.
“Where else can you live and work and make a profit?” he said. “I can never imagine going back to an office job.”