Guy Who Runs Wilderness Camp Told to Install Sprinklers, Use County Approved Lumber


eustace conway
Credit: turtleislandpreserve.com

Meet Eustace Conway, 51, the owner of Turtle Camp near Boone, North Carolina. He's a back-to-the-land guy who bathes in a creek, grows his own food, and welcomes others to learn some survival skills at his place (which he runs as an educational nonprofit) for a small fee.

He's been doing this for 30 years, but he was recently featured on a reality TV show. That bought local planning officials sniffing around his campfire.

Want to guess what happened next?

A team of health, construction and fire officials showed up for an unannounced inspection of the preserve, acting on an anonymous tip. Escorted by two sheriffs' deputies, they executed what Mr. Conway describes as a "SWAT-team raid"—peering into outhouses, stomping around log cabins, and climbing hand-hewn ladders.

Their findings are compiled in a 78-page report with a bullet-point list of violations. Mr. Conway's sawdust urinal and outhouses? Unpermitted, according to the officials. The wood he used to erect two dozen buildings? Built with lumber that isn't "grade-marked," meaning it doesn't specify the mill where it was produced.

The open-air kitchen, with its crates of potatoes and stacks of pots? "Not protected from insects and animals," according to the report. "It is, in fact, outdoors."

Conway's response is a much more politely worded Duh.

The county says Mr. Conway must rebuild or tear down his cabins, barn, kitchen, blacksmith shop and sawmill, and create a septic system before hosting any more classes and camps.

"These buildings aren't fit for public use," says Joseph A. Furman, county planning director.

Mr. Conway says primitive facilities are precisely the point….

"Codes don't apply to what we're doing," he says.

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  1. He’s been doing this for 30 years, but he was recently featured on a reality TV show.

    As far as mistakes go, this was one of the worst this guy could make.

    1. It just goes to show you, government as a watchdog is a pathetic lie, and they are so often asleep at the wheel, have what appears to be too few resources to cover the millions of laws, but as soon as they get alerted to some perceived lack of homage to them by a whining complainer, it’s TACTICAL SWAT TEAMS UP YOUR ASS time.

      Best bet is to stay low, and make certain they do not know you and never hear about you, or become a giant gorged mini leviathan pig so you can also suck blood with them in a co-parasitic vampire existence. Even then, your success and continued life is at risk, while theirs of course is a certain guaranteed forever no matter what they do or how many laws they break.

  2. This shit is infuriating

  3. I’ve seen this guy on TV.

    That sawmill he’s got is driven by water running downhill from a creek through a pipe he set up. The mill itself looks like it as built in the 1930s, or maybe he built it himself.

    If you had to pick five people to survive the apocalypse that would help you rebuild civilization, he’d be one of the first people you’d want to pick.

    …right behind whoever’s passing for Ginger and Mary Ann these days.

    1. The other four would be county-level regulators though, right?

      I mean, sure you’ll need a guy to build shit and keep you alive, but who’s going to determine whether he’s doing it indoors or outdoors?

    2. Well, we can’t have people figuring out how to DIY their own sawmill. If you do that they’re going to want to start DIY building their own houses and shit like that. And then housing prices would plummet and the banks wouldn’t be able to make money anymore.
      We have to make building houses as cumbersome and inefficient as possible, so that people can have larger mortgages.

      1. by not buying interstate lumber, he’s affecting the interstate lumber markets, so it’s interstate commerce.

        1. Government approved commerce stamping is required, how else would idiot government toadies know if a piece of wood is a piece of crap or not ?

          Yep, were gone baby. Freedom is a joke, and so is common sense, or any sensible actions by the powers that be.

          I’d love to see the giant swarm of SWAT brats storming the camp, just so I could laugh my ass off at how god damned stupid our government has become.

    3. Present-day Ginger is here (NSFW): http://www.reddit.com/user/gingerpuss

      1. Well. I’ll take two.

  4. The heard he was on a reality TV show, figured that he might be making some money, and decided they needed to look into how they could get some of it.

    1. One of the episodes I saw was about the trouble he was having raising money to pay his property taxes. That’s when they did the bit about the mill. He had to log some of his property to sell wood. He mills his own lumber!

      There’s no question about where the wood came from in those structures. If it was built in the last 30 years, he milled it himself. And if any of them were built more than 30 years ago, then they were almost certainly built before there were any zoning regulations.

      1. . He mills his own lumber!

        does he have a license for that? is it up to code? how about the fireproofing? does he pay his own workers comp insurance?? how about an environmental impack study? hes DIVERTING WATER?? OMG call the EPA!!

    2. Yeah…palms were not greased. Who does he think runs todays extortion rackets?

    3. Incidentally, I saw the same sort of thing happen on one of those Alaskan gold mining shows. No one had bothered to inspect the guy’s mine for decades, but after season one, all of a sudden, the department of mining wants to do an inspection, the U.S. Geological Survey needs to show up and get their mugs on TV, etc., etc.

      1. Happened on the other one too. Season one of “vacuuming the bering sea” went fine, but for season two, multiple boats ran into “violations”.

  5. I wonder if the chain saw he is holding runs on primitive Unicorn Farts?

    1. I’m goin’ from memory here, but I believe they’re electric–and he generates his own electricity from a creek using tunnel rams and generators he put together himself.

      Watching the show, I don’t really question the guy’s bona fide living off the land. The only question I have is about he was able to get all that land to begin with.

      I suspect he got it the old fashioned way–he inherited it. That doesn’t take anything away from him, though. Pretty much everything he does comes either from the land or his own efforts.

      1. Eustace says that, when he was 16, spirits told him to live off the land during a Native American ceremony. So he and a few friends bought a 1,000-acre piece of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains called Turtle Creek Preserve, of which he owns 500 acres.

        1. Yeah, where’s the mule and 500 acres?

        2. “Eustace says that, when he was 16, spirits told him to live off the land during a Native American ceremony.”

          So he basically heard voices in his head. Apparently the voices did not warn him about “health, construction and fire officials” conducting an “unannouned inspection.”
          Looks like the spirits only get you started down a path and then you are on your own.

          1. I’m pretty sure that’s the way it’s always worked with religious inspiration. Not a sparrow falls without the Father’s knowledge, but the sparrow still falls.

        3. …spirits told him…

          Hang on guys, I see the beginnings of a religious exemption here!

      2. That is not an electric chainsaw. You can see the air intake and starter handle. Looks like an older Stihl, maybe MS60 or something like that.

        1. “to learn some survival skills at his place”

          Doesn’t mean the place has to be a jungle. So what if he uses a gas powered chain saw? Oil comes out of the ground…just like trees.

          1. LMAO – awww poor babies super lib natural experience got shuttered by beardy woodsy man holding a gas powered engine…

            You think Jeb there found him some bubblin’ crude and thinned it out in the ‘ol made from a wooden fired ore furnace crude copper still ?

            I thought to myself he surely uses hemp oil to power that tree killer.

          2. To be fair, he assembled that chainsaw from twigs and leaves that he found one day while picking berries.

  6. The cabin built and slept in by campers last summer needs a bathroom, fire sprinklers and smoke detectors. “Does anyone sleep there? Then it has to meet the residential code,” he says.

    What the fuck kind of summer camp has toilets, sprinklers, and smoke detectors in the cabins?

    Havn’t these people heard of outhouses? Are fucking outhouses illegal for summer camps now? The precious snowflakes have to have a god damn flush toilet or else?

    Fuck these people. Where’s the fun in summer camp if the cabins are effectively motel rooms with bunkbeds?

    1. “What the fuck kind of summer camp has toilets, sprinklers, and smoke detectors in the cabins? Seriously.”

      Funny…they let me camp on State property for a fee, let me build a fucking fire beside my tent and never once searched it for “fire sprinklers or smoke detectors”

      1. The one rule they do have though, is, after 8 they lock the gate and you aren’t getting out until the park ranger wakes up. Real safe.

      2. But you aren’t making mammon.

    2. I have to wonder how they handle Boy Scout camps. Every time I went, I slept in a tent on a wood platform and cot. There was obviously no bathroom or sprinkler, and yet Boy Scout summer camps are incredibly popular and people manage to go to them without dying.

      1. Same here.

      2. See, if it’s just a tent, bldg. codes don’t apply; see below.

        Camp Netimus, which I visited in Penna. last year, had bldgs. with bathrooms & sprinklers & alarms.

    3. Are fucking outhouses illegal for summer camps now?


      1. We’re doomed.

        It’s effectively illegal to send your kids on a primitive camping trip.
        We can’t have them growing up with actual survival skills. They must be dependent on the state at all times. Starting with making sure they are provided with a flush toilet at all times. Even when they are ostensibly “roughing it”.

  7. North Carolina? I expect this sort of idiocy in New England, but, you know, I thought you southerners were cool.

    1. Bureaucrats are never cool.

      1. Look away…
        look away…
        look away.

        Dixie Land.

    2. You know, not all of New England is Massachusetts and Connecticut.

      1. “You know, not all of New England is Massachusetts and Connecticut.”

        Don’t forget those bastions of economic freedom, Rhode Island and Vermont!

        1. Or New York and New Jersey!

          1. not new england

            1. Way to harsh the buzz of a good ol’ regional pissing match, Juice.

              1. Whatever, HM, people who think NY is in New England are worse than Hitler.

                1. Chicago is east of the Mississippi, which make it part of New England.

                  1. Nope.

                    Everybody knows that Chicago is in the northeastern Midwest.

                    1. We New Englanders just call it flyover country. And your coast, Hugh, is still just 2pac-land.

                      BIGGIE 4EVA

                  2. It’s in the damn name: New York. It’s a state named after a place in England.

                    QED, mother fuckers.

                    1. dammit i need to scroll down first.

            2. I could have sworn York and Jersey were English and well new still means new right?

              1. The Dominion of New England did come to include NY and the Jerseys. So why is it that today we don’t think of NY & NJ as part of New England? Probably because “New England” was a term applied by cartographers at a time when the present NY & NJ were New Holland, so that even when the Dominion was extended there, which was the case for only a relatively short time, the identification of the area northeast and exclusive of New Holland as “New England” had already stuck and does to this day. Still, during most of the brief period an entity was officially incorporated as “New England”, it applied to NY & NJ as well as what we now think of the New England states, and when it was dissolved, it dissolved all at once, so it’s not as if the “New England states” stayed as part of it later than NY & NJ did.

      2. Hell, I went to summer camp in Massachusetts, and there were no flush toilets or sprinklers in the cabins. There _might_ have been battery-powered smoke detectors, can’t remember. Of course, this was over 20 years ago; things might have gotten substantially more overbearing since then.

    3. North Carolina is the Massachusetts of the South.

  8. I have a modest suggestion for a better use of that chainsaw.

  9. anonymous tip – bullshit. one of those parasites watched it and wanted to get on tv. enjoy your 15 minutes, asshole.

    1. Or someone decided they wanted that piece of land.

      1. That’s another possibility. Or the County thinks they could get more money by letting a developer move in and build retirement homes on it.

        How much you want to bet this guy is sitting on a prime piece of real estate. Blue Ridge Mountains and everything.

        But they can’t eminent domain it because it’s not urban enough to be blighted. So they try the always handy tactic of regulatory harassment.

        1. But they can’t eminent domain it because it’s not urban enough to be blighted. So they try the always handy tactic of regulatory harassment.

          Uhm, yes they can. They just blighted it. The whole are isn’t fit for public use. The moment he complies with the code, it’s urban enough to be blighted.

          Always remember, Hazel, the shit is chess, it ain’t checkers.

        2. And if that doesn’t work, just plant some weed and let the drug warriors shoot his ass.

          Worked in California.

    2. anonymous tip – bullshit. one of those parasites watched it and wanted to get on tv. enjoy your 15 minutes, asshole.

      You’d be surprised. The world has no shortage of Mrs. Cravitz’s who thrive on turning their neighbors in.

  10. What a menace to society.

  11. If I ever have kids and send them to summer camp, I’m going to SEEK out primitive places like this.

    I don’t WANT them to have flush toilets and sprinklers and smoke alarms, I want them to learn how to survive without all that crap.

    I want them hosing out the outhouses themselves. I want them to have to build their own cabin from scratch with wood they milled themselves.
    The ENTIRE FUCKING POINT of this place is to teach people to live like it’s not modern society. The minute all the buildings have to built to code you ruin the entire reason for it’s existence.

    1. HazelMeade…This is Your (Future) Life!


      With apologies to Allan Sherman.
      May he rest in peace.

  12. “Codes don’t apply to what we’re doing,” he says.

    Ehhh hehehe… heheheh…HEHEHEHE. hahahahah! HAHAHAHAHA!

    Yeah. Comply or be shut down. This conversation is over.

    1. Codes? Where we’re going we don’t need codes…


      I watched BTF II last week and realized that it takes place only two years from now. All the cool shit in that movie and what do we have? Ipads. Motherfucking, boring ass ipads.

      The future is now and it sux.

      1. What do you expect? Wealth creation effectively stopped in 1998. The last 15 years have been wasted.

        1. 3D printers were invented in 1998?

  13. It is utterly pathetic. Anyone that goes to the camp should need only sign a waver and as long as it’s non profit it shouldn’t be a problem. Bureaucracy where it’s not wanted or needed wasting tax payer dollars.

    1. if they sign a waiver what does profit have to do with it?

  14. The fact that these county inspectors have not been taken out back and beaten with rubber hoses does not bode well for North Carolina.

  15. Remember when I mentioned that land use regulations caused the housing bubble?

    1. I actually do, and I agree that they certainly contributed.

  16. OK wow, so why didnt I ever think of that man?


  17. I suppose when the English conquered New Holland, that became part of New England. New Sweden, I don’t know about. But then, for some time I thought the North West Territories and the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio were all one entity too.

    There are ways about this bldg. code business that work for summer camps. Tents and such are temporary structures, not permanent ones the bldg. codes pertain to. That’s why when Will deVito built a hof, he bolted the beams, etc. together. Bolts can be unscrewed, therefore it’s not a permanent structure, therefore it might as well be a tent for code purposes. You can sleep there and not need a bathroom or anything. I’m sure Mr. Conway with all his resourcefulness can figure out something similar, although he may also have to take on some “partners”.

    1. Hey, I was right — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D…..ew_england

      NY & NJ were part of New England.

  18. This is a bad joke, right?

  19. Bottom line is, the next time a camera crew noses around a “wilderness camp” they’re likely to leave feet first.

  20. my family needed to fill out CBP I-94 this month and encountered a web service that has a ton of fillable forms . If others are interested in CBP I-94 as well , here’s http://goo.gl/Cc3iaU

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