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Stopping the loss of public clothing-optional recreational areas

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Beginning with the summer of 2013, the National Parks Service announced that the cancellation of the long-standing clothing-optional policy for the beaches of Fire Island National Seashore, the 32-mile-long barrier island off Long Island, New York.

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While Light House beach and four other beaches have been traditionally used by nude sunbathers and naturists for decades, they have never been officially designated clothing-optional by the National Parks Service. Authorities until now have always looked the other way and haven't enforced laws prohibiting public nudity.

In an interview with a local news affiliate, Fire Island chief ranger Lena Koschmann attributed the policy change in part to the decimation of the dunes in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The dunes she explained had screened nude beach goers from public observation.

Koschmann went further in explaining the ban, stating that an increase in public complaints and observations of sex, masturbation and prostitution taking place on the beaches was also a part of the decision.

Near Madison, Wisconsin another nude beach on the Wisconsin River just outside Mazomanie has been in the news. Similar to the situation at Fire Island, the beach is not officially recognized as clothing-optional. Authorities with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the agency with jurisdiction over the area, have simply not interfered with those who have traditionally used the beach for skinny dipping and nude sunbathing.

While Wisconsin has a statute that prohibits exposing genitals in public, law enforcement authorities and local prosecutors have tolerated public nudity at the beach and haven't enforced the prohibition against it except when nudity is accompanied by lewd acts.

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A Department of Natural Resources spokesperson told a local news reporter that an increase in lewd acts, public sex and drug use by those who use the area had already prompted the agency to close the beach on weekdays making it available for use only on weekends in an attempt to curb inappropriate behavior. However, she added that hadn't really dampened the problems, inferring that more stringent restrictions may be looming.

Sudden policy changes aimed at eliminating nudity on public lands where authorities have historically allowed nude recreation use, sometimes for decades, has become a disturbing trend. Nudists and naturists aren't to blame for the inappropriate sexual activity often cited for these policy changes.

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The blame for inappropriate behavior rests squarely on non-nudists who are either ignorant of how to behave in a clothing-optional area or simply don't care. Yet it is nudists and naturists who suffer for the bad behavior of others and usually are blamed by the general public. The end result is often yet another of the precious few clothing-optional areas being taken away.

Naturists and nudists who are fortunate enough to have a local unofficial clothing-optional site can't afford to be apathetic. There is never any guarantee that such locations will remain clothing-optional. As San Diego county naturists learned the hard way when state officials decided to ban nudity at San Onofre Beach, once a policy changes and nudity is banned at a site it is too late.

Those who use clothing-optional public recreational areas have more than just a responsibility to personally behave as exemplary naturist citizens. If you see something happening that shouldn't be, take it upon yourself to speak to the offender. If you just don't feel comfortable confronting someone then report it to the authorities. By doing so you are promoting positive naturist values and will be helping to stop the loss of public clothing-optional areas.

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