Naturist Action Committee: Help Reverse Closure of Mazo Nude Beach
On Tuesday, March 8, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that Mazomanie Beach, also known as Mazo Beach, has been closed to the public.
Mazo Beach is located on the Wisconsin River in southern WI. Mazo has been a popular nude beach for decades. It has a local user base and each summer it would also attract tens of thousands of visitors from all over the U.S. and tourists from other countries as well.
While the Department of Natural Resources has not designated Mazo as an official nude beach, it has long been accepting of its clothing-optional status and use. The DNR has also had its own presence at the beach with patrolling rangers.
In 2013, the DNR put a major restriction on public access to the beach and surrounding woods by closing it on weekdays from March to September. They claimed this new policy was created to curb the illicit / illegal behavior in the area. Since then, people could only visit on weekends from 6am to 8pm. Naturally this had a negative impact on visitor traffic and local businesses.
This is not the first time the nude beach was under threat of closure. In 2003, an anti-nudity bill (AB 574) was introduced in the WI state legislature. It proposed to outlaw nudity on public lands, but its main target was obviously Mazo Beach. The Naturist Action Committee (NAC) got involved to stop this legislation and rallied naturists to speak out against it. Thankfully, NAC was successful, and the bill did not pass.
For some time Mazo also had trouble with a hateful fundamentalist Christian group led by Ralph Ovadal that would protest and harass people near the beach. Ralph wanted to see the nude beach get closed down and supported the anti-nudity bill. Him and his group were a real disruptive nuisance, and NAC advised people not to engage with them. Fortunately, Ralph seems to have given up this cause and they haven’t been seen at Mazo in many years.
Now for a while there’s been talk of alleged illegal activity at or near Mazo Beach. Recently, DNR natural resources area supervisor, Brian Hefty, claimed they are closing Mazo due to “illegal behavior, such as drug use and public sexual activity. This illegal and illicit behavior that developed there over several decades has created a pattern that discourages broader use of the property.”
Nudity is not the problem, nor the crime. As NAC points out, there is no evidence that nude sunbathing has led to this illegal behavior problem. Crime levels at Mazo have not been compared to textile beaches to show any sort of correlation. It seems as though the DNR and the media are acknowledging that naturists aren’t the problem. And yet… naturists are the ones to bear the brunt of the punishment with the beach being closed.
Oftentimes, when nude beaches are shut down for criminal activity, the people in charge don’t seem to have any written incident reports or arrest records to show for it (convenient, right?). But for Mazo, there are records!
NAC has looked at the DNR’s records of arrests made since 2010 at Mazo. In 2013, there were 13 total arrests that fell under the categories of disorderly conduct or lewd / lascivious behavior. This went down to 7 arrests in 2014. And last year in 2015, there were only 4 arrests for disorderly conduct and none – zero – for lewd / lascivious behavior. They made zero drug arrests in 2013, 3 in 2014 and 2 in 2015.
After they restricted weekday access, 2/3 of all their arrests were for people trespassing in the closed area.
So what can naturists do to reverse this nude beach closure?
NAC has a professional lobbyist in Wisconsin and is working with the local group, Friends of Mazo Beach to contest this closure. They have been doing research, meeting with DNR staff and consulting with a law firm.
The DNR is currently revising its Master Plan for the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, on which Mazo Beach is located. (Closing the beach was NOT part of the new plan!) They are currently accepting public comments on the plan so NAC is asking naturists to SUBMIT COMMENTS to the DNR before the deadline of APRIL 8TH. (Anyone can write in.)
This can be done by filling out their comment form online or by sending an email to DNRLWSRMP@wisconsin.gov.
You can also share your comments at the upcoming DNR public meeting on Thursday, March 31. NAC is encouraging people to attend these meetings and speak against the beach closure! (Meeting details on the NAC alert page.)
You can learn more about Mazo nude beach and about local news / happenings on the Friends of Mazo Beach website.
About NAC: As stated on their website, the Naturist Action Committee is “a nonprofit organization that exists to advance and protect the rights and interests of naturists throughout North America.” They engage in grassroots activism to combat anti-nudity legislation, nudity bans on public land, and other issues that negatively impact naturists’ and everyone’s individual freedoms. And NAC relies completely on voluntary donations to keep doing this important work! So show your support and help NAC by donating today.