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[URBAN NOTE] “Officials ban nude sunbathing on Fire Island”

Joe. My. God. and Towleroad both linked to Candace Ruud’s Newsday article announcing that soon, there’s going to be a ban enforced on nude sunbathing on iconic Fire Island. (Environmental concerns following the scouring of the dunes by Hurricane Sandy seem secondary compared to the concerns over public displays of inappropriateness.)

Speaing as someone who has enjoyed Hanlan’s Point on the Toronto Islands, I can see the points being made. I am somewhat surprised that nude sunbathing wasn’t legally protected on Fire Island as it is at Hanlan’s Point.

A decades-long tradition of nude sunbathing on Fire Island beaches is coming to an end this summer: Fire Island National Seashore authorities have announced plans to enforce long-standing laws banning the practice.

The surging popularity of Lighthouse Beach in particular has led to increased complaints and observations of assault, sex, masturbation and prostitution, said Fire Island chief ranger Lena Koschmann. On some summer days, as many as 4,000 people descend on the narrow strip of land east of Robert Moses State Park Field 5, in the shadow of famed Fire Island Lighthouse.

“We’ve been struggling to make it work because Fire Island has a history of that type of use and people have been coming there for years,” Koschmann said. “The more we talked about it and researched it, the more we realized that that use wasn’t compatible with an area like Lighthouse Beach.”

The beach’s proximity to the lighthouse generated complaints from tourists about public nudity, which now would be seen more frequently because the beach’s dunes, decimated by superstorm Sandy, no longer obscure sightlines, she said.

Since the beach has no lifeguards, bathrooms or trash cans, Koschmann said thousands of nude sunbathers pose a public health risk in an area that wasn’t meant to be heavily used.

“There has been a huge change in the demographic and the types of activities happening there in the last 10 or 15 years,” she said. “Now when you go out there it’s a party atmosphere. There’s DJs and music, and people partying and drinking.”

Koschmann also said some social media sites carry invitations to meet for public sex on the beach.

The fact that public nudity is illegal in New York was another compelling reason to change the policy, since FINS maintains joint jurisdiction with the state, she said. The ban also will be enforced at four other Fire Island beaches where nude sunbathing is known to take place — including the tract of land in front of Sailors Haven, from Point O’ Woods to Cherry Grove.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 28, 2013 at 12:24 am

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