Nudists in California asked to cover up

Nudists in California asked to cover up

Refusing to hear a case brought by a local nudist group, the state's top court has upheld a ban on nudity at state beaches, including those that have been informally designated as "clothing-optional."

The court on Thursday unanimously denied review of a lower-court ruling upholding a May 2008 decision by State parks director, Ruth Coleman, to allow officers to cite nude sunbathers on a portion of San Onofre State Beach in Orange County where they had previously been undisturbed.

"This is a tremendous setback..." officials of The Naturist Action Committee and Friends of San Onofre Beach said Thursday. "But the battle has not ended."

Coleman's action revoked a policy announced in 1979 by then Parks Director Russell Cahill, who said officers would wait until someone complained before enforcing regulations that forbid public nudity at state parks and beaches.

Under that policy, officers who got a complaint would tell the nudist to put on a swimsuit or leave for the day. Otherwise, they took no action as unclad sunbathers and swimmers congregated in isolated sections of state beaches from San Diego to Eureka.

The latest ruling favoured state officials, who last spring decided to crack down on a more than 20-year tradition of nude sunbathing at the 1,000-foot stretch of beach known as Trail 6.

Despite the new ruling, park rangers won't be conducting sweeps of beaches up and down the coast looking for lawbreaking nudists, Roy Stearns, spokesman for the Parks and Recreation Department, said Thursday.

"An officer still has the discretion to take action or not take action," he said. "He can warn them, have them put their clothes on and if there's no compliance, he can cite them.
"These are public beaches," Stearns said. "It seems to me there ought to be a greater code of conduct for all of us to get along with some standards of etiquette."

The state court ruling doesn't apply to federal parkland such as the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes San Francisco's North Baker Beach and several other Bay Area sites frequented by the unclothed.

It also does not apply to private land where nudists congregate, such as a portion of Muir Beach in Marin County.

But park rangers could enforce the ban at traditionally clothing-optional state beaches such as Gray Whale Cove south of Pacifica and Red Rock Beach in Mount Tamalpais State Park.