Saturday, November 29, 2008
Nude beaches seen as cover for cash gaps
Interesting article fron the Palm Beach Post.
By Frank Cerabino
Palm Beach Post staff writer
Friday, November 28, 2008
Times are tough, maybe even tough enough to start paying more attention to one of the state's leading nudists.
"It's time for the state of Florida to grow up," said Richard Mason, the president of the Florida Naturist Association.
Mason, who lives in Miami-Dade County, was in Boca Raton this week to urge Palm Beach County's legislative delegation to take a less-is-more approach to plugging holes in the state budget.
Mason's idea is simple: More nude beaches equals more state revenue.
"If you can build golf courses for golfers, why can't you designate beaches for naturists?" Mason asked.
He uses Haulover Beach Park in Miami-Dade as Exhibit A.
For the past 18 years, that beach has been designated as a sanctioned clothing-optional beach — the only one in the state.
"It's drawing more visitors than the Florida Marlins and the Miami Dolphins combined," Mason said.
And the county is reaping the benefits of the $5 parking fee, which brings in about $1.4 million a year, he said.
"Every year the parking money keeps going up and up," he said. "Nothing stops it from growing."
Mason estimated that 60 percent of Haulover's visitors travel from other parts of the state, elsewhere in America or abroad to sunbathe in the raw.
"It's a destination beach all because it's a naturist beach," he said.
Mason's pitch for more nude beaches is especially well timed because Gov. Charlie Crist is looking to make significant cuts in state spending, including from the Division of Recreation and Parks. That division has been asked to come up with a 10 percent cut in its operating costs.
To do that, the division has come up with a plan to close 19 parks across the state until the economy rebounds. None of the parks is in Palm Beach, Martin or St. Lucie counties.
But instead of closing the parks, Mason has argued, the state can more than compensate for its revenue shortfalls by keeping all the parks open and changing the designation of a few beachfront parks into clothing-optional spots.
"Naturists like to be around the ocean," he said. "You put one of those beaches in Palm Beach County and it will draw a lot of people."
The John D. MacArthur Beach State Park in northern Palm Beach County had been an unofficial clothing-optional beach until the state took it over in the 1980s and began arresting nude sunbathers there.
A state appellate court decision ruled that being nude alone does not constitute indecent exposure, and that there must be some lewd and lascivious behavior with it.
"So you can have a naturist beach as long as it is in a designated area," Mason said.
Public officials, however, have been reluctant to make accommodations for nudists.
In 1989, Palm Beach County's Tourist Development Council turned down a request by the Eastern Sunbathing Association to officially make a portion of MacArthur Beach State Park clothing-optional.
Like Mason's request this week, the sunbathing group made an economic argument to the tourism board, saying that a nude beach would bring in dollars to the county.
But that was during more comfortable economic times, days when it was easier to dismiss nudists dangling dollars.
In today's budget climate, its harder to scoff at Mason's pitch without mulling over the pros and cons.
"It's been a successful formula at Haulover for 18 years," he said. "Why not give it a try?"
Or to put it another way, what's worse?
A bare-bones budget or some bare-bones bathers.
Posted by nudist1010 at 10:48 AM