Picture it … your own little private shelter or tent area, communal fire pit to enjoy, like-minded individuals gathered ‘round, playing instruments and telling stories, coming as strangers and leaving as friends. Like what you just heard? Then time to pack your bags and head over to the 13-acre nature lover’s playground known as the EVL Yurts!
Striving to be short-term communal living at its best, EVL Yurts is a new and unique camping opportunity in the Town of Ellicottville, just a few miles north of the village off route 219. Administrative/Creative Director Catherine (Cait) Geary says one of their mottos is, “come alone, come together, come as you are.”
Some may be wondering, however, what exactly is a yurt? 
According to Justin Dineen, Owner and Operator of EVL Yurts, “A yurt is a round collapsible structure with a lattice wall, acrylic sky light dome, and high tech fabric walls. Aside from our cabin, which serves as the rental office, the first official yurt at our campground is called ‘Yurtopia,’ and has two full-sized beds set up in bunk style.”
The cost to rent a yurt is $60/night; two tent sites are also available for $25/night. However, campers can rent the entire 13-acre property for $110/night, which includes the yurt, tent sites, an activity area, communal fire pit, and a nice, secluded area where the property “takes on a whole new feeling as it enters into the hardwood forest at the back of the property,” according to Dineen. 
“We want our guests to know that we are providing a comfortable spot in nature, to feel welcomed, and to feel free to make the place their own during their stay,” said Geary. Guests should plan to bring their own bedding, grills, camping gear, and warm clothes. She continued, “Although the yurts stay cozy, western New York weather is always unpredictable. Better to be prepared!”
Max capacity of the campground is 16 people, and the yurt sleeps four. Additional people are $10/person. Guests renting the entire property are welcome to bring a camper or RV at no charge; drop-in RV’s are $20/night; no-hookups available. The campground, interestingly, is being built in two phases.
PHASE ONE: Geary explained that phase one is rustic with no running water or electricity. A porta potty is on site and a point driven well is being installed for guest use. This summer, a second yurt will be built.  Next year, a full opening will commence with two yurts and two tent sites. A third yurt may be possible.
PHASE TWO: Dependent on the success of phase one, phase two will be a major change. Electricity, wells, and septic will be installed, along with another section of road being built up the hill. Twenty more yurts over the course of a few years, a bathhouse with shower facilities and an activity yurt will be constructed.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN: Dineen came up with the idea of EVL Yurts about nine years ago, when he was living and working at a resort in the Sequoia National Forest of California. The resort had two yurts that were used for various purposes. “I loved the design and the atmosphere they provided,” he said. 
In the following years, he traveled the national parks system and stayed in as many yurt campgrounds as he could find. The idea of a communal feel while camping continued to appeal to him. At the time, he was the general manager of a resort in California; his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in and the idea of opening his own campground was born. 
In 2013, his vision to bring the communal camping feel from the west to Ellicottville became reality. “It didn’t exist here, and with the way outdoor activity was growing, I felt a camping option would be a great idea for the area,” Dineen said. “So, I moved home and began looking for the perfect spot.”
If your interest has been garnered to check out their little slice of utopia, Dineen and Geary can be reached through the EVL Yurts and Recreation Facebook page, or through email at evlyurts@gmail.com. They made sure to mention that they love visitors, so if the sign is up, feel free to stop on by! 
Dineen and Geary would like people to stay with this philosophy: “From the tiniest rock to the fragilist branch … Everything was placed with a purpose … Please leave only footprints and take only memories.”
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