Provided courtesy of the Argus-Champion

Warner man defends right to bare it all

By Heather Durfey
Staff Reporter

WARNER - "Nude is not lewd," said Warner resident Dan Watts, a practicing nudist, dismissing common stereotypes about those who take part in "nude recreation.".

Watts, his wife Mary, and two children Josh, 18, and Krystin, 13, practice nude recreation. It has become the family's lifestyle, and Dan and Mary work hard to educate the public about the lifestyle and prevent any laws from infringing on the free practice of nude recreation.

Nude recreation is "not an evil thing," Watts said, "We aren't a threat to women and children. We're normal people."

About 18 years ago, Dan and Mary read an advertisement for a nudist facility in New York called Berkshire Acres. The Watts family lived in Albany, and out of curiosity, decided to check it out as a place to spend Memorial Day weekend.

After the initial shock of seeing people going about their business without clothing, the Wattses thought to themselves, "Hey, this is really nice. We like this," Watts said. They went back a couple of times, became familiar with the nudist lifestyle, and networked with others who practice the lifestyle and found organizations to join.

The nudist lifestyle, Watts said is quite simple: Wearing clothes is not a big deal. Nudist wear clothes when appropriate, and go naked when they feel like it.

For example, Watts said, while doing yard work with tools, it might be a good idea to wear clothes. While cooking, they'll wear an apron but clothes aren't necessary. Walking around and hanging out at home they don't wear clothes. If they have visitors, "We won't stand in their face and make them feel uncomfortable," Watts said.

His children made their own choices of when to wear clothes.

Watts believes the nudist lifestyle promotes a better body and self image. Most nudists, he said, "aren't models out of magazines. We are all shapes, sizes, and weights.".

Watts said the nudist lifestyle promotes family togetherness. Every year in the summer, the family attends a regional gathering of the Naturist Society in Lenox, Mass., for a week of camping.

The Naturist Society, an organization the family has been a part of for 16 years, is based in Osh Kosh, Wisconsin. Nationwide, there are over 27,000 members.

On its Web site, the mission of the Naturist Society is stated as promoting "a culture of body acceptance through clothing-optional recreation, using the tools of education and community outreach. The Naturist Society celebrates the nude human form as inherently wholesome and natural; TNS promotes attitudes of tolerance and respect toward the body, and rejects the exploitation of the body for commercial or sexual purposes."

Watts also contributes to the Web site, a site that is a compilation of information about nude recreation and keeps track of places where laws threaten the rights of nudists to practice their lifestyle.

It is named for The Ledges, a section of public recreational shoreline on the Harriman Reservoir near Wilmington, Vt., including a remote area available to nudists. The selectmen there decided to create an ordinance banning nudity, and Watts said a lot of the townspeople were upset.

In Enfield, the pastor of the Living Waters Bible Church, Rev. Elmer Murray, asked the board of selectmen to enact an anti-nudity ordinance preventing strip clubs and similar enterprises from opening in the town. The board is not interested right now in entertaining that idea because of the legalities involved. Rev. Murray may petition a proposed ordinance onto the town warrant in March. Watts e-mailed the Enfield selectmen discouraging the ordinance.

Watts said instances like this provide an opportunity to "get out what the real issues are." He said people fear what they are unfamiliar with, and pointed out that a majority of people think nothing is wrong with skinny dipping, and wouldn't want to begrudge others the right.

Watts said nude recreation is "family oriented, contrary to whatever stereotype people have in mind. There is certainly nothing lewd about it at all."

Watts encourages those who are curious to check out The Naturist and The Ledges Web sites.