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Living life naturally



Talley McKewn Crary

On a Sunday in spring, Blind Creek Beach offers quiet enjoyment for sunbathers, but summer weekends attract 300-400 naturists. ELLEN GILLETTE PHOTO

Blind Creek Beach an ideal place to sunbathe in the nude

BY ELLEN GILLETTE

When explorers landed on Florida’s coast, they may not have known where they were, but one thing was clear: They were overdressed. Florida’s inhabitants in the 1500s weren’t concerned with coverage, much less fashion.

Today’s naturists (also known as nudists) believe that being comfortable in the skin you’re in — and nothing else — has emotional, even physical, benefits; boosting awareness, acceptance, and self-confidence while reducing an emphasis on status. Simply being with a like-minded social group can reduce stress.

Naturists can be found worldwide. Nelson Jones, president of Treasure Coast Naturists and vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Association of Nude Recreation, was introduced to naturism while serving in the Army.

“In my 20s, hiking with a group in Europe, we stumbled upon nudist campers and joined in. It was great!”

Fort Pierce resident Richie Parsons enjoyed skinny dipping in high school. “It was more mischievous than anything.” When he moved to Colorado, though, he discovered the naturist lifestyle. “At a hot spring at night, snow on the ground, looking up at the Milky Way — now that’s cool.”

COMMUNITIES STATEWIDE
Naturist communities are scattered throughout Florida. Since 1992, Sunnier Palms Nudist Park on Okeechobee Road west of Fort Pierce has provided home and haven to resident and visiting naturists with a community and campground. Co-founder T.A. Wyner has played an integral part in educating the public and local governments about the legality and validity of the naturism, confronting confusion and inconsistency.

Middle Cove on South Hutchinson Island used to be the go-to place for nude sunbathers, but Wyner says they were sometimes asked to leave, threatened with arrest, or actually charged.

“Naturists don’t like to infringe on anyone,” Wyner says. When a housing development was built nearby, they migrated south.

Unfortunately, legal problems moved south with them. One day someone reported seeing a naked man on the beach. It was Jones.

“I owe the deputy who escorted me off the beach a debt of gratitude,” he says, because it motivated him to act. In 2014, Nelson and others sat down with representatives from the St. Lucie County Commission, Blueway Advisory Committee, the Sheriff’s Department, and the county attorney’s office to discuss a clothing-optional beach.

Florida statute 800.03 states that “It is unlawful to expose or exhibit one’s sexual organs in public or on the private premises of another ... in a vulgar or indecent manner, or to be naked in public except in any place provided or set apart for that purpose.” Everyone agreed that sunbathing is not vulgar and that a beach set apart was legal. Blind Creek Beach became a reality.

SIGNS NOTIFY BEACH-GOERS
When Parsons moved from Colorado to be closer to his father, he hoped he could find a naturist beach nearby. He was thrilled with Blind Creek. “It’s a lovely place. I go as often as I can.”

Although the county has not designated its property as a nude beach, naturists, county and law enforcement have agreed that naturists may use it, erecting signs to warn others they will encounter nudity.

“If we get a complaint, we’ll go out,” says Chief Deputy Garry Wilson, who was part of the original discussion, “but I couldn’t tell you the last time we got a call.” Located on South Hutchinson Island — about halfway between Fort Pierce and Jensen Beach — Blind Creek Beach provides a quiet, safe beach for naturists and others.

“We’ve got snowbirds during the winter, throughout the entire week,” Jones says. “After spring, it’s a different crowd, up to 300 to 400 on the weekends and growing each year.”

NATURISTS BOOST COFFERS
Naturist tourism brings millions of Florida visitors each year, along with their cash and credit cards. TCN, and its subsidiary Friends of Blind Creek Beach, is working on a survey to quantify the financial impact naturism has on St. Lucie County. In the meantime, word of mouth and email blasts are bringing more and more people to Blind Creek.

“Occasionally someone comes out, or walks along the beach, who’s unaware of the status,” Jones says.

TCN provides printable signs online, but permanent signage would prevent surprises. Jones would like the county to invest itself more publicly by installing signs.

Wilson, however, doesn’t see that happening soon. “Usually a board reacts to issues and we have no issues,” he says.

The tendency to sexualize nudity is largely an American cultural bias. Other countries and groups do not share the stigma of bare skin. And not all nudists can live in nudist communities. Blind Creek Beach gives them — in all shapes, sizes, and ages -- the opportunity to just be, enjoying the essence of naturism, at least for a few hours.

WEBSITE HELPFUL
The best way to prepare for a trip to Blind Creek Beach is to visit www.treasurecoastnaturists.org, where there are tips on beach etiquette, nature and history pages, upcoming events and membership information.

Managed by St. Lucie County Parks, Recreation and Facilities Department, Blind Creek also benefits from a small army of devotees. On weekends, TCN volunteers usually are present to clean the area, answer questions and help maintain the highest naturist standards.

In 2017, Martin County sheriff’s deputies made 21 arrests after citizens complained of lewdness on local beaches.

“We’ve had no problems like that at Blind Creek,” Wilson says. “If anyone does see something, the naturists address it, asking offenders to leave or call us themselves.”

According to Laurie Weber of the MCSO, Martin does not have a clothing-optional beach; Indian River County does not, either.

The idea of “See something, say something” has a proven track record at Blind Creek for maintaining safety and propriety. Children often enjoy the surf and sand alongside their parents. Protecting its people is one concern; protecting the environment is another. Entering protected sand dunes can result in a hefty fine. Dogs and litter also are prohibited.

CLOTHING OPTIONAL
Nudity is not required at Blind Creek Beach. Textiles, as the clothed are sometimes called, are welcome. Politeness and consideration are always in order. Unless used for bird-watching or with permission, cameras and binoculars are discouraged. Self-control is emphasized and the use of towels for sand and chairs is encouraged.

One of TCN’s missions is to influence favorable legislation while ensuring that harmful bills and ordinances are not passed. For $20, members gain access to naturist events nationwide and receive email updates. Funds support and maintain the portable toilets at the beach, the website and special events.

“We welcome donations,” volunteer Jacqui Foshay says.

TCN also advocates for better services, such as county lifeguards during peak times. Area naturists cooperate with the county, working to reduce the impact beach visitors have on the environment and participating in local beach cleanups. They actively encourage local hotels and restaurants to provide discounts to patrons associated with the beach.

TCN’s wish list includes mats for the path to the beach that would increase accessibility for walkers, wheelchairs and even strollers and coolers. “Cost isn’t an issue for the county,” Nelson says, “because we’ve offered to pay for them.”

An annual Skinny Dip will be held from 12-4 p.m. on July 15 at Blind Creek Beach and feature a mass skinny dip.

“The first year, we had 123 people in the water,” Jones says. “In 2016, there were 276. We hope to break 300 this year.”

A 2015 poll by the Naturist Education Foundation found that 73 percent of Floridians think people should be able to enjoy nude sunbathing at a designated beach.

ACCEPTANCE AND INCLUSION
Not everyone is thrilled, however. Ormond Reese, a longtime resident of St. Lucie County, says that while Blind Creek Beach is technically open to everyone, it seems restrictive.

“I don’t like the idea that people at a public beach could feel uncomfortable or not fit in,” he says. Naturists, however, say they are all about acceptance and inclusion.

When TCN arranged a bowling event in Jensen, complaints poured in.

“The backlash actually increased our Facebook likes, so we rescheduled,” Jones says. “It’s not a sex thing. Anything another group would do — potlucks, picnics — we do, too. Just without clothes.”

For more information, visit TCN’s website or Facebook page, or email treasurecoastnaturists@yahoo.com.