NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – Go to the WikiTravel page for Fire Island, and you’ll see a lot of detailed descriptions of celebrated nude beaches.
Lighthouse Beach features one of the most “one of the most popular nude beaches in the U.S. A mix of straight and gay, singles and couples and some families,” the site says. And in Kismet, there is an official nude beach with a big sign ‘Beyond This Point You May Encounter Nude Sunbathers.’”
But this summer, that guide will be rendered obsolete. Fire Island National Seashore authorities will start enforcing laws banning the decades-long practice of nude sunbathing on the 32-mile-long barrier island off Long Island this summer.
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, the small strip of sand known as Pristine Beach, just east of Robert Moses Field 5, is located near a bird sanctuary where families stroll.
The ban will be enforced there, as well as four other Fire Island beaches where nude sunbathing is known to take place, according to Newsday.
“I have kids,” said Winnie Schaeffer, a Fire Island beachgoer. ”I wouldn’t want them stumbling upon somebody naked out on the beach.”
Added beachgoer Everett Harris, “I don’t believe in nude beaches myself. I think it’s probably bad for the children.”
Fire Island chief ranger Lena Koschmann said the nude beaches have grown in popularity, and there has been an increase in complaints and observations of sex, masturbation and prostitution, especially on the popular Lighthouse Beach.
Fire Island has six field rangers on staff, who said with 32 miles of beach to patrol, they have been stuck most summer days at the nude beach answering complaints.
“To have school groups, and family groups and tour groups coming to the lighthouse and stumbling upon nudity right there, this is what we call incompatible uses,” Koschmann said.
Damage from Superstorm Sandy also contributed to the decision after the storm decimated dunes that once served as a natural curtain between the nude beach and the lighthouse.
“Hurricane Sandy exaggerated the problem because Sandy leveled the dunes between the lighthouse and beach so one of the things that’s happened is there’s now increased visibility of that area,” Koschmann told WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs.
Koschmann said violators could face up to 6 months in jail and up to $5,000 in fines, however she did hint of some leniency.
“If you’re out away from where most of the people are, we’re not going to spend a lot of time enforcing this state law in those areas,” Koschmann said.
Local nudist and naturist groups said they are stunned and saddened.
“We are exploring all our options and hope to reach an understanding that is acceptable to everyone involved,” said the naturist group Long Island Travasuns Inc.
The ban was not well received on the Fire Island National Seashore Facebook page.
“It’s true. We are no longer accommodating clothing-optional recreation on federal lands. We know this will be a disappointment to many people who have used the Lighthouse beach area with respect and responsibility over the years. But in recent years, rangers have observed an increase in criminal activity, public intoxication, lewd and lascivious behavior, exhibitionism and voyeurism, and increasing visitation levels beyond what the site can safely support. In addition, Hurricane Sandy leveled dunes in front of the Lighthouse that once provided some level of screening from other public use areas,” the organization wrote.
“This is truly a shame. Please don’t try to tell us how bad our beach was,” wrote Pauline Darrow Snyder. “It’s truly a shame that the new [superintendent] has ruined it for not only thousands of Tri-State nudists, but the effects on the locally economy will definitely be affected. My husband and are are one of the many many folks who travel more than a 100 miles (Kingston, NY as a matter of fact) to enjoy Lighthouse beach and rent a room at the local Bayshore Inn. We see many Lighthouse nudists at this motel. What will happen to it now? Not to mention the local restaurants that we frequent!”
“This is beyond sad, it is tragic,” wrote Carol Zaza. “My heart breaks with the loss of a very special beach that I spent many great years at. The thought of Living on long island without the lighthouse clothing optional beach makes me want to cry.”
“What’s next….shirts required?” wrote Bruce Van Vessem. “They should stick to important issues like rebuilding the beach.”
But the Fire Island National Seashore noted that public nudity has been illegal New York State since 1984, and now, the ban will be enforced.
Rangers will outline the restrictions for Memorial Day, as well as the process for giving tickets – which may be difficult since many nude sunbathers do not have IDs.
“There’s 30 miles of beaches,” said Amanda Fabian of Fair Harbor, Fire Island. “I feel there should be a few nude beaches, so people can live freely — which is what Fire Island is all about.”
“It’s right out here on the beach,” added Mark Cherveny of Kismet. “Between the lighthouse and Field 5, it’s fine with me!”
Rangers said the decision is final.
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