By Alicia Dziak

Looking for a unique way to connect to the great outdoors? Want to be close to Ellicottville, Griffis Sculpture Park and nature? Tucked away in the foothills of the Enchanted Mountains, located at 7756 Route 219, adjacent to the old Riley’s restaurant, is EVL Yurts and Recreation, where meandering trails, old willows, a babbling brook and oh yeah—yurts!—await.

Dictionary.com defines a yurt as “a tent-like dwelling…consisting of a cylindrical wall of poles in a lattice arrangement with a conical roof of poles.” While yurts have popped up in some NY state campgrounds in recent years, having them so close to Ellicottville makes it easier than ever to experience such a thing.

Evl Yurts and Recreation Owner Justin Dineen grew up in Ellicottville and moved back after living out west for some time. While out west, Dineen spent a lot of time around yurts and at National Parks, and wanted to bring the idea back home. “There’s nothing like this around here,” Dineen said.

Dineen spent months looking for just the right property, and found it in 2014 when a realtor told him about the parcel along Route 219. “The for sale sign was in the weeds,” Dineen said of his discovery of the property.

From there, the not-so-small task of clearing the land began. Thick brush was cleared to make way for a driveway and small parking lot, as well as the sites themselves, and careful consideration was taken when doing so. “It was strategically cleared,” Dineen said of integrating the sites with the natural beauty of the property.

“We pride ourselves on keeping the integrity of the land,” added Cait Geary, Administrative and Creative Director.

Phase 1 of the project included the driveway, parking lot, constructing a small office building with sleeping quarters, and clearing four sites, two of which will house yurts and two of which can be used as rec areas or tent sites.

A common fire pit is set slightly away from the camp sites and is meant to encourage community among campers. “We want people to come as strangers and leave as friends,” Geary explained, noting that their motto is “Come alone, come together, come as you are.”

The first of two yurts is up and the site is appropriately called “Yurtopia.” It is a 16-ft. yurt with a dome on top and two large windows that create a nice cross-breeze when open. While the yurt is currently unfurnished, in the very near future, it will hold a set of perpendicular-style, full size bunks, a table and chairs and a dresser.

A path connects this yurt with a rec area (for games like giant Yahtzee and Kan Jam) and the second yurt, that if all goes as planned, will be up by summer’s end. The second yurt will be slightly smaller at 14 feet and hold one queen size bed.

“Having the yurts here completes the outdoor experience of Ellicottville,” said Geary of their close proximity to all of the outdoor activities just a few short miles away.

The yurts and sites are primitive, meaning there is no electric, no running water and no septic. (There is a portapotty on the property for guest use.)

Dineen emphasized how wonderful Jay and Patty Curtis of J & P Construction were to work with. “They did an amazing job,” he said of their work on the driveway. He also complimented Chris Bishop Contracting for their building work and the Ellicottville Town Board, who was “very easy to work with.”

“No corners were cut,” he stressed.

Phase 2 of the project, which Dineen hopes to work toward over the next few years, will be putting up several more yurts on top of the hill behind the current yurt and parking lot. He also hopes to eventually build his own home up there among winding trails through the woods.

For now, EVL Yurts and Recreation will be a seasonal place to camp, with Dineen targeting the weekend after Fall Festival as the closing date, weather-dependent. Down the road, he hopes to keep it open year-round.

Rates are $60 for a yurt, $25 for a tent site or $200 to rent the entire 13-acre property for the night. While they are not taking reservations just yet, Dineen hopes to be open in early July. Stay tuned to their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Ellicottville-Yurts-and-Recreation) for reservation and other info.

Make your plans for a stay in the beautiful Ellicottville wilderness this summer or fall. Yurts, tent sites, trails, games and a campfire—what could be better? “We’ll provide the space and you make it what you want!” Dineen said.