Friends of the Ledges, Call to IN-action June 21, 2002

Just over a week ago the Wilmington Selectboard voted to enact an indecency ordinance that would prevent clothing optional recreation and nudity in the Town of Wilmington. Before such a law can go into effect it is open to a 44-day period of petitioning by the voters of Wilmington that will call for a vote by the registered voters to repeal the ordinance. By passing this ordinance, the Selectboard has actually opened the door to one of the most pure forms of democracy. We may never know why a politician voted but in this case the matter is clearly left up to the voters of Wilmington. This is perhaps the best way to put this long term and time consuming matter to rest for good.

Many Vermonters have a have a distaste for governmental overcontrol and excessive law. Many of the same do not like the influence of outsiders. This is the premise for the call for IN-action.

A group of very capable local residents, some who use the Ledges. and many of whom have never set foot near the Ledges and who have no direct interest in Ledges issues, has organized to start the petitioning process. The general attitude of these freedom loving people is one of not needing a new law, not having the taxpayer carry the burden of enforcement of such a law. There is very little doubt that these citizens will obtain signatures needed to bring this matter to vote. The future is clearly in the hands of the registered voters of Wilmington and these good people will do best to make their own arguments without the dilution of outside or special interest influence.

Friends of the Ledges leaders are in complete agreement with the wishes of these local supporters. Newspaper letters about nudity, the Ledges, and other issues that are not of direct concern of the townspeople could cause an effective local campaign to backfire. Attempts of pro-ledges influence are as dangerous as attempts of religious persuasion or political arguments that no one can win. As outsiders, our influence could be construed as offensive as that of the self interested people working against the Ledges. As Ledges users, our perspective may be seen as "special interest." We must not be seen as carpetbaggers who promote self interest in town by flooding the local newspaper with letters arguing the pros of nudity, nor threats to economy that have proven ineffective elsewhere. Newspaper letters from non-residents could dilute the more powerful letters by residents.

Capable leaders of Wilmington can make the best of arguments that will ultimately protect the Ledges and can obtain required signatures. We are best to allow the local focus to remain in focus. Based on many discussions with people of Wilmington, that focus is much of the nature that "Wilmington does not need new laws."

Democracy can work only when the voters base their vote on truth and fact. Much local myth surrounds the Ledges. It is fortunate that many Ledges users have also visited Wilmington and made friends over time. By revealing themselves as Ledges users they have dispelled many an evil myth simply by a show of friendly face. Those who have found personal friends in town may want to discuss Ledges issues in a discrete manner. Those unfamiliar with the community would do the Ledges well by spending time in the village. It is understanding and friendship, as well as our shared quest for freedom that creates the greatest during this time of need. It is also people who know us that can most effectively combat the local gossip and untruth spread by our opponents. Many myths have been dispelled by those of us who have showed face in town while wearing the Friends of Ledges T-shirts. These shirts can still be a helpful means of dispelling myth in the community. FOTL shirted or not, we must all be sensitive to the issue of carpet bagging. While we can't be on a local political crusade, we can let people see that we are the normal and respectable folks that we are.

As matters unfold, Wilmington supporters may see a need for a strategic letter writing campaign. Those who would be willing to participate, and especially those with local or Vermont addresses should register their willingness to participate with Friends of the Ledges in order that we may keep you informed as to the nature of letters desired by this group. Deep behind the scenes are hard working people of The Naturist Society, The Naturist Action Committee, and The American Association for Nude Recreation. These major organizations work to protect the right to clothing optional recreation all over the world and all have stated full commitment to issues at the Ledges. As a precautionary measure, AANR has retained a major Vermont law firm to oversee the current democratic process as well as to prepare for any legal challenge that would follow, should voter referendum be a failure. This is only a preventative measure and is not intended as any type of legal threat. AANR has stated the strong desire to follow local advice. NAC has been in a position of full support and involvement with FOTL for years and their guidance has been highly valuable.

All who have an interest in clothing free recreation should support at least one of these organizations with membership and the involvement of being informed. Without places like Vermont, where freedom is well preserved, and without these organizations to oversee freedom, it could be easily argued that clothing optional recreation would be a thing of the past. Self-policing the lake and the Ledges area is essential any time and this is especially true this season. Out-of-bounders who might fuel the campaign of opponents should be politely told where the traditional boundaries are. Boaters can patrol and issue the same polite requests to any found indiscreetly nude around the lake. Signs must be maintained and replaced when needed. Hikers can increase presence along the trails to make sure that the Ledges area is not an environment suited to improper use of any type.

Any behavior that could be used by opponents as ammunition should be addressed. Any case of persistent misbehavior should be reported with specifics to the Friends of the Ledges where a small group will discuss the matter and give it special attention. If the Ledges receive unwanted publicity, as it did last season, we can expect some weird characters. Any unusual activity should be reported to the Friends of the Ledges as well. Last season, when opponents reported KY Jelly wrappers found along the trail, FOTL representatives at the meeting were well prepared to share the knowledge that in fact, we too had found these wrappers along with an empty case of 24. Because all had been found on the same day and in areas not conducive to any type of sexual activity the door was opened that these had most likely been planted by the opposition. Opponents at other beaches have resorted to some very nasty tricks, all of which will backfire if good communication is maintained.

Communication between users is essential at times like this. FOTL will continue to do it's best to convey important and factual information as events unfold. Distribution of materials to the thousands who visit the Ledges is a challenge and all can participate in this distribution by printing a few extra copies of this newsletter and passing them around. All Ledges users are asked to stay informed and the easiest way to do this is by e-mailing FriendsOfLedges at hotmail dot com to be placed on the confidential and well-protected mailing list. Those without e-mail can do their part by requesting printouts of friends and those with e-mail can provide copies of correspondence to others. No one should have to carry the burden of distributing information to all.

Protecting the Ledges requires a lot of effort. If shared equally, tasks involved would be but a minor inconvenience to many rather than a chore for a few. People are needed to check and replace signs. If there is suspicious behavior at the Ledges it should be the task of any observer to do something about it. Although many have worked very hard, it is unfair that all do not participate. It is essential to the efforts of FOTL that more participate as to not discourage the efforts of those who have contributed so much.

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