Please allow me to write to you to express my extreme displeasure with actions of the National Park Service on your island of St. John.
Since late April of this year, rangers have been harassing and ticketing users of St. Johns beaches, especially Salomon and Jumbie, for sunbathing and swimming without bathing suits. In several instances, women have been ticketed for being merely topless. The tickets issued in respect of these women stated they were nude on the tickets, which they were not.
Rangers have told bathers that nudity is "indecent" and that it would not be allowed because families and children frequent those beaches. In the year and a half that I lived and worked in Coral Bay and attended Salomon Beach, I saw children only about half a dozen times, as it is too far for children to walk 20 minutes to the beach. The majority of those children were with their naturist parents. The minority who were not naturist did not complain about those who were.
Salomon, of all the beaches on St. John, is not primarily a childrens or family beach. Salomon is frequented by predominately professional straight couples, such as medical doctors, attorneys, architects, etc. with money, visiting from the mainland.
Lots of young folks employed in the restaurant and hotel business on both St. Thomas and St. John attend on their days off. There are also apparently gay men who tend to keep to one end of the beach.
This enforcement action by the National Park Service rangers is a waste of time that could be better used keeping people from drowning at crowded beaches. It also wastes taxpayer money.
Many other NPS properties enjoy a peaceful coexistence between naturist and non-naturist users. User conflict is virtually non-existent. Canaveral National Seashore in Florida and Fire Island National Seashore in New York are two examples.
Women can also sun and swim topfree on any New York state or local beach. Women have that right there because the New York State Supreme Court ruled that the sight of a womans breasts is not indecent because certainly breast-feeding is not indecent. Women were also given that right due to equal treatment under law; that is, men can go without a shirt at the beach.
Californias state park policy, the Cahill Policy, does not allow rangers to patrol and ticket naturists. Rangers can only ticket upon citizen complaint.
Increasing numbers of Americans are discovering that they like nude recreation and are seeking naturist destinations. Jamaicas tourism industry understands this well. Europeans and Australians have always been very fond of naturism and many of these tourists visit St. John. Imagine how all these visitors will think of the retrograde attitude of the U.S. Virgin Islands after experiencing a ranger ticketing them for simply having a skinny-dip at a remote beach!
Many of the people ticketed, including several who are friends and acquaintances of mine, have contacted me since April to express their anger and disappointment with St. John, an island they had previously viewed as a laid-back, kind, safe and tolerant place, welcoming of all types of tourists. Obviously, St. John is not that kind of place any longer.
I urge the National Park Service to intervene and immediately stop this unproductive and intrusive enforcement. I urge the V.I. government to play a role as well. Most readers are probably unaware that in the Virgin Islands artistic modeling in the nude, in private, is illegal! That certainly needs to be changed. The V.I. Code should be changed to reflect 21st century social realities.
Then the rangers can do what they do in other jurisdictions: prohibit lewd behavior, not mere nudity and top-freedom; there is a difference. There are plenty of beaches for all tastes on St. John.
The new TV promotion by the Virgin Islands Tourist Department airing on the mainland now enumerates the population of St. John, then adds "… with enough beaches to keep you from seeing any of them" (i.e., other people).
The tourists who are keeping your economy alive by staying in your hotels, eating in your restaurants and partying in your bars should be made to feel welcome, not hunted. The ones who have already experienced the hassle of being ticketed will move on to other, more progressive and enlightened tropical destinations for their winter holidays, where they, and their tourist dollars, will be appreciated.
Richard P. Spacer
Editor's note:We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to email@example.com.