Sunday, July 14, 2013

California naturalist beaches

California naturalist beaches,  California is telling skinny-dippers to put some clothes on, and the message is sending a chill through lovers of sunning-in-the-buff across the country.
In what one national nudist organization calls "a tremendous setback" for its cause, California's Department of Parks and Recreation has tossed aside a longstanding policy of toleration and is warning of a crackdown on nude sunbathers at San Onofre State Beach.

Bob Morton, executive director of the Naturist Action Committee, a Wisconsin-based organization that fought the nudity ban in court, worries that other beaches where nudity is allowed could follow California's lead.

"There are other states in which there are sanctioned nude beaches," he says. "They're all looking to see what California is doing."

Beachgoers say a secluded 1,000-foot section of shoreline here has been a popular spot for nude sunbathing for more than 30 years. It even attracts tourists from out of state who seek all-over tans.

Nude sunbathers have been coming here since the 1970s after President Nixon, whose Western White House was nearby, ordered the Marine Corps to open 6 miles of Camp Pendleton's oceanfront to the public.

Protected from prying eyes and busy Interstate 5 by 300-foot cliffs, the section closest to the Marine base boundary "presented itself as a perfect place for a clothing-optional beach," says Allen Baylis, a lawyer who says he has enjoyed nude sunbathing here since the 1970s.

Park Superintendent Richard Haydon began efforts to halt the nudity after receiving reports of sexual activity and solicitation for sex. Morton's group sued the department.

Morton says the department acted illegally when it abandoned a long-standing policy of moving against nudity only when it received specific complaints from the public on the day an offending incident occurred.

The nudists won a first round in court but lost on appeal. Late last month, the California Supreme Court refused to hear the case, leaving in place "nudity prohibited" signs along the long, steep trail from the parking lot to the beach.

Park rangers have yet to issue citations. The infractions would be considered misdemeanors, Baylis says, and carry a fine of up to $500.

Beachgoers are shedding their clothes despite the ban. Half a dozen middle-aged men were sunning in the buff one recent November weekday when temperatures were in the 70s. On hot summer weekends, several hundred nude sunbathers may show up, Morton and Baylis say.

Haydon warns rangers will begin issuing citations but won't disclose when.

"We are going to be moving forward with starting to enforce the nudity statute down at San Onofre, and basically returning that portion of the beach to all people who want to go down there without fear of running into something they didn't think they would," Haydon says. "People should very well be under notice."

Baylis says nudists are ready to be arrested.

"If they really want to come down there and issue citations, we have people willing and able to be cited in order to take it up in the criminal courts as a matter of civil disobedience," he says. "It's a very important issue for a lot of people."

The sex allegations are "a red herring," Baylis says. Nudists don't want sexual activity around their beach either, he says, and solicitation for sex takes place at public beaches, rest areas and parking lots regardless of whether there is nude sunbathing nearby.

Roy Stearns, deputy director for communications of the Department of Parks and Recreation, says that the state has never designated any place as a clothing-optional beach and that state law specifically bans nudity in state parks. San Onofre, he says, is one of several public beaches in the state that have become known as clothing-optional by practice and tradition.

"What's happened is some people over the years just went there and took their clothes off, sat down and had a nice time," Stearns says. "They kind of carved this place out for themselves."

A second Southern California beach, a section of Torrey Pines State Beach in San Diego called "Black's Beach," remains popular among nude sunbathers. Stearns says that although the practice is illegal there, too, a similar crackdown is not imminent.

"We aren't going to go on a campaign through the rest of the state and shake things up," he says. "At all places, we will look on a case-by-case basis."

The dispute comes as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has been struggling to keep state parks open in the face of huge budget deficits and spending cuts. Visitors to San Onofre pay a $15-a-day access fee (which the state does not charge at some other beaches), and defenders of nude sunbathing say their dollars are supporting the park's operation. "Now we're going to criminalize the only group of people that has been keeping this particular boat afloat," Morton says.
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