Nudity banned on Harriman's Ledges
By Associated Press, 6/22/2002 13:39
WILMINGTON, Vt. (AP) An indecency ordinance signed by the select board is set to go into effect this summer, and some nude bathers are complaining it's unfair.
The ordinance bans nudity and sets a fine of up to $500 for any person caught in violation of the order.
While the Ledges area of Lake Harriman has been a relatively peaceful host to skinny dipping for decades, local officials say there have been some complaints.
Last summer Pacific Gas and Electric, which owns all land abutting the lake, tried to set specific zones where nude bathing was permitted.
Those property regulations were found illegal, said Chairman Fred Skwirut, leaving the board ''back to square one'' as the summer approached and concerns resurfaced.
''Any ban is an infringement on some people's rights,'' Skwirut said. ''But we felt this was a matter of doing what was best for the community.''
But nudist groups from throughout New England have decried the ordinance, saying that it misrepresents the bathing site.
Morley Schloss, who represents the Naturist Action Committee, said The Ledges has been a valuable, family-oriented place for nudists.
''It's ridiculous to see such an order in a state touted for its respect of personal freedom,'' he said, describing the ordinance as overly broad and placing an unfair connotation on nude bathing.
''People opposed to the area are trying to make it seem like something offensive is happening when it isn't,'' he said.
Skwirut counters that a full-out prohibition of nude bathing was the only way the board felt it could resolve the issue. Because the board could not find an effective way to control nude bathing on the lake, he said it had no choice but to outlaw it.
The ordinance, which was signed June 12 by the board, will go into effect within 60 days of its adoption. However, residents have a 45-day window to petition that the issue pass only with a town vote, and Skwirut says he anticipates that will happen.
''The people that have used The Ledges have always been very nice, very peaceful,'' Skwirut said. ''They certainly weren't abusing the spot, but residents don't want it to be advertised. I don't think anyone is breaking the law but our hands were tied.''
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