Update on the Status of NY’s Former Nude Beach – Lighthouse Beach
It’s the 2nd summer that naturists have been banned from Lighthouse Beach on Fire Island, NY. Not long after superstorm Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the National Park Service decided to immediately end nude use of Lighthouse Beach.
The NY Post just did a story on the beach, and it’s good to see more coverage of the situation. We think the article is supportive enough, and the naturist community seemed to respond positively. (Even if it does sensationalize the nudity a bit in its accompanying photos.) The article goes over some of the reasons given for the ban, one of the most important being a rise in “lewd, lascivious and voyeuristic behavior, as well as an increase in suspected prostitution, drug use and assaults.”
Bob Morton, executive director of the Naturist Action Committee (NAC), says it’s all “hearsay.” There’s no evidence to prove these claims of the Fire Island National Park Service (NPS). As far as we could tell, Lighthouse beach goers were confused by the “reports” of illicit behavior. Most would describe Lighthouse as a beautiful, peaceful family-friendly beach. Basically, it looks like NPS made it up.
Lighthouse has been a popular nudist beach for decades. The Post reports that nudists could be found on the shore starting in the late 1800’s, though it really took off starting in the 1960’s. I have friends that were raised as nudists with their families on that beach. Thousands upon thousands of people visited every summer to enjoy the sun, sand and water in the clothing-optional section.
However, it’s important for people to know about the legal aspects of the beach. Nudity is officially prohibited by NY state law, but this beach is located on federal land. Thus NPS could choose not to enforce the state law, and this is what they did for a long time. But naturists essentially knew they could turn around and decide to start enforcing it at any time, and that’s exactly what happened in February 2013. Over the years, many naturists consistently strive to inform others about proper beach etiquette and behavior so as to keep the beach safe and open. The Long Island Travasuns and Save Lighthouse Beach are two groups that worked hard to establish a relationship with NPS and help police the beach.
Sooo what’s the real reason Lighthouse Beach in Long Island was closed to nude use?
In the spring issue of N magazine (official publication of The Naturist Society), Bob Morton provided an update on their meetings with NPS and a summary of their arguments against the ban. One of the first key people he talks about in the article is Lena Koschmann. Less than a year before NPS made their big announcement, Koschmann had become the new Chief Ranger. She was actually new to Fire Island, too, having just been transferred from North Carolina. Morton writes, “She had arrived at FIIS with an attitude that, by all accounts, was rigidly opposed to nudity on public land.”
Thus many in the naturist community blame Koschmann for this fiasco. Though Morton points out that she was not solely responsible because it had to come down from the superintendent. (Side note: Koschmann has since been promoted to a new position and no longer works at Fire Island NPS.)
What’s the latest Lighthouse Beach news? Are we ever going to get back our Long Island nude beach?
The Naturist Action Committee is working behind the scenes to try and reestablish the clothing-optional status of Lighthouse Beach. It may be slow-going, but it is not a lost cause.
In the N magazine article, Morton gives a full explanation of their main argument against NPS’ actions, in terms of the Administrative Procedural Act (APA). The APA is a federal law “requiring that agencies promulgate their rules after at least 30 days notice to the public and opportunity to comment by the public.”
In February 2013, NPS put out a letter announcing their policy change on nudity, which immediately went into effect. There was no 30 days’ notice or opportunity given to the public to comment, as required by the APA. This would’ve been acceptable if it were an emergency. But how can it be an emergency to end nude use of a beach in the middle of winter?
They go into much more detail in the article, but NAC appears to have a strong case against NPS for violating the APA and “very good legal precedent supporting its arguments,” as they state. If NPS is found to have violated the APA, there’s a good chance their nudity ban would be rendered invalid. You can read an outline of NAC’s arguments on their previous Lighthouse Beach action alert page (see righthand column in yellow).
In conclusion, based on what we’ve read and heard, we think there is still hope for reclaiming this beach!
What can I do about about the closing of Long Island’s Lighthouse Beach?
Donate to NAC! Your donation will help cover legal fees and other costs in this ongoing battle to save the beach.
Any other nude beaches in Long Island or around the Fire Island Lighthouse Beach area?
There are small alternative areas on Fire Island known as Cherry Grove and The Pines. These are well-known gay communities, and Cherry Grove actually falls outside of the FIIS jurisdiction. Nude sunbathing is still tradition in these areas, and that there have been no issues with park rangers or police over nudity. The catch is that these beaches are not easy to get to. You have to park and take the Sayville Ferry, which is a bit expensive. Usually there are just small groups of nudists with textile sections right next to them. (Due to parking and transportation constraints and the size of the beach, these sections are not a good alternative to Lighthouse.)
And then of course there is Gunnison Beach in NJ, a popular nude beach accessible by ferry from NYC.