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Something to be Thankful for Today: Seattle parks officials drop plan to ban nudity in parks

Seattle- Nudists relax.

Seattle Parks and Recreation will drop its pursuit of a proposal that would make public nudity in parks subject to prosecution for criminal trespass.

And, in a nod to tolerance, Seattle’s parks commissioners asked parks officials to explore the possibility of a clothing-optional beach in the city.

The seven-member board, which was going to take up the nudity proposal in January, abruptly decided at its regular meeting recently to urge parks officials to drop the idea in the face of strong opposition.

A crowd “asserting the right to be naked outside” appeared at the meeting of the volunteer advisory board, said Dewey Potter, parks spokeswoman.

“This is how we learn and find out what people want,” she said.

Bob Morton, the Texas-based executive director of the Naturist Action Committee, which advances and protects the rights of naturists, applauded the parks board.

“Seattle is diverse and maintaining that diversity is one of your biggest assets in Seattle,” Morton said. He wasn’t at Thursday’s meeting, but a representative of the group was there as part of its nationwide interest in naturist issues.

Officials proposed an administrative rule that would have allowed police to ask nude park visitors to leave or face a criminal trespass citation if they didn’t.

The proposal grew out of concern about a World Naked Bike Ride event on July 12, one of three held in Seattle this year to draw attention to oil dependency.

The cyclists got a permit to gather at Gas Works Park, where they stripped, painted themselves and rode through downtown Seattle, ending at Seattle Center.

Police received six complaints that the naked riders were offensive and police took down 23 riders’ names.

No charges will be brought against those riders, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

Daniel Johnson, 34, organizer of the July 12 event, attended the board meeting. He said Friday he was pleased with the board’s action. He said the riders in his event aren’t necessarily nudists, but he supports the study of a clothing-optional beach.

Johnson and Morton said there has been strong public demand for a clothing-optional beach in the Seattle parks strategic-action plan.

Parks spokeswoman Potter said the commissioners instructed the department to monitor for several months compliance with permits issued for parks events.

That means people must abide by federal, state and local laws, Potter said.

Under state law, public nudity is not illegal unless it is an affront to someone else or causes alarm, Potter said.

“It’s subjective,” she said. “It’s in the eye of the beholder.”

Nudity is not illegal “per se” under state law and the city doesn’t have a law regulating nudity, according to a parks memo on the now-dead nudity proposal.

The proposal likely wouldn’t have affected Seattle’s most famous nudist event — the naked bicycle ride during the Fremont Fair — because participants don’t gather at a park.

Nor would it have affected the renting of enclosed public swimming pools for private nudist events.

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