Historic Beach Documents

Revised February 22, 2011

Cape Canaveral, Florida
MacArthur Beach State Park, Florida
San Onofre State Park, California


Lemoyne--Wading Indians

Nearly 450 years of documented family Naturism in America
Timucua Indians wading to an island picnic near Jacksonville, Florida in 1564-65
Engraving after the now-lost painting of Jacques Lemoyne



History of Nudity at Cape Canaveral

    We are archiving two important documents on nude use of Cape Canaveral National Seashore.  This first one comes to us, courtesy of Marvin Frandsen.  Personal addresses have been removed.

CHARLIE C. CARLSON
COMMAND SERGEANT-MAJOR, USA, Ret.
EDGEWATER FLORIDA

7 FEB 94

Tom Pitton
New Smyrna Beach, Fl.

Dear Tom,

    In response to your request for a brief history of nude sun bathing along the beaches of Volusia county I am providing the following information.  These are items which I have come across as a researcher of Florida Military History, Florida Folklore and Oddities, and as a certified Genealogist.  Being a seventh generation Floridian, with most of my generations living along the east coast, I have included some items found while researching my own family as it applies to the subject.

    For fun let's start with some ancient history:

    I suppose the first people without clothes along what is now Canaveral Seashore were the aboriginals, the Timucuan and Ais.  These are described in various accounts of Jacque Le Moyne in 1564, and in 1605 by Alvaro Mexia as being "naked" or "scantily dressed."  Mentioned in these accounts is that these people lived around the Mound of Surruque (today's Turtle Mound).

    An account by Father Francisco Pareja, 1595, refers to "women wearing only skimpy garments of moss."  Pareja was obviously upset by such customs and sought to change things by imposing his values of Christianity on these people.  (Confessionario published in 1613 described native attire.)  It is ironic that 399 years later certain "officials" are still trying to clad "beach natives."

    Jonathan Dickinson's Journal described 24 shipwrecked survivors (1696), women and men, who lived among the natives as they made their way from Jupiter Inlet, thru the Canaveral coast, on their way to St. Augustine.  They had few remaining clothes and most were naked.  This was often the case with survivors of shipwrecks along the coast.  Most all accounts of salvage operations of the early Spanish along this coast employed naked divers.

    Now let's move up to later times:

    In researching some old papers and letters while doing family research I ran across a letter referring to "the men would go down to red shell to kill turtles."  (Red Shell is the old timers' name for what is now called Apollo Beach.)  In the same writing I found the following mention, "we ran around jaybird" and "took off our britches to keep salt from ruining the thread."  I gather that these men would go on turtle hunts and remove their clothes; while protection of clothing may have been of concern, the entry "ran around jaybird" seems to have implied some enjoyment of the sun and surf by these fellows.

    During Prohibition there was a lot of activity along this stretch of seashore, ranging from speakeasy beach parties, smuggling of whiskey, much of which went through Oakhill, and a lot of moonlight skinny dippers (circa 1920 to 1933).  The stories of what went on were told for many years by those who knew, but of course "claimed to not have participated."  Prior to Prohibition in 1917 the state passed FS 800.03, which was to prohibit indecent exposure.  This is considered by many as a forerunner to other Victorian style prohibition laws which followed and lasted up to about 1933.  In reality the FS 800.03 had no effect on the remote beach users until recently.

    In the old days the Canaveral Seashore was extremely remote; the last point of civilization was Bethune Beach, which was a segregated beach for the black citizens.  Beyond this was a rough, washboard of a road that was only fit for a vehicle as far as Turtle Mound.  So most people would use a beach buggy and drive south on the beach, or use a boat and come in from the river side.  It was always known as "a place where nobody would bother you" and therefore attracted anyone looking for privacy to sunbathe or skinny dip.

    However the earliest recollection I have of nude sunbathers was not in the Canaveral Seashore area but just north of today's Club Breakers.  In the mid-fifties there were a lot of secluded sand dunes just north of the Old Casino; people used to go behind the dunes to take their suits off for sun.  This went on for years; of course most of us kids knew what was going on and would occasionally sneak-a-peek.  Today this area is built up with condominiums and houses.

    Most of the high school kids from Seminole High considered the area south of Turtle Mound as a place for skinny dipping in the late fifties.  By 1967 the "Flower Children" or "Hippies" would frequent the beaches south of Bethune, sometimes camping out for a week or more.  An old Hippy Volkswagen is still stuck down there under the sand.  This really began the consistent use of the beach for nude sunbathers and swimmers.  By 1976 there were quite a number of folks using the beach; about a quarter of the nudists were a group of school teachers who hardly missed a weekend.  We had to drive a washboard road to number five, then would take the winding dirt road by the river to Target Rock (about a mile and a half south of five).  When the Park Service took over the area they build a wooden walkover at Target Rock.  That walkover has long since disappeared.  It was a remote area and no one bothered the naturists; even one of the first Park Rangers would join the group on his days off, running in the buff with everybody else.

    Then the National Park Service paved the road to number five, put in facilities and closed the river road to Target Rock.  The rest of course is the history as you know it.  When I think about it there was probably more freedom at this seashore during the Prohibition Era than there is in 1994.

    I hope this gives you a brief history of the "naturist use" of the seashore now known as Canaveral National Seashore.  I think what I have offered is a fairly accurate account from old records and personal knowledge.  I have added some of my credentials for your information and reference.

Sincerely,
Charlie C. Carlson, CSM USA Ret.
Research Historian of:
Florida Military History
Florida Folklore Oddities
Florida Genealogy

Member:
Florida State Genealogy Society
Florida State Historical Society
Royal Order of Florida Crackers
Florida Pioneer Descendant
(Certified by FSGS Certificate 1465)

Awarded Florida State Distinguished Service Medal
By Order of the Governor Oct 1991

Graduate of Columbia College 1979 (major history)

Author of various articles on Florida History which have been published in "The Florida Genealogist," "The Florida Anthropologist," and several newspapers.



The Infamous Black Notebook
and the Weldon Amendment
    by Paul LeValley

    In 1994, Representative Randy Ball introduced a bill in the Florida legislature that would have prohibited all nudity in the state, including private resorts.  We killed the bill in committee.  It did not escape anyone’s notice that Rep. Ball happened to be the son-in-law of the minister who was raising a fuss at Playalinda Beach in the Canaveral National Seashore.  After church, caravans of the faithful would drive past all twelve clothed beaches, and whip out their binoculars in hope of being offended at the traditionally clothing-optional section.

    During the hearings, Ball pointed to a black notebook which he said contained evidence of great wrongdoing at Canaveral.  When he threatened to bring the bill back the following year, Richard Mason of South Florida Free Beaches filed a Freedom of Information request to see inside the notebook.  He was informed on short notice that the book would be available for viewing for just a few hours on March 9, 1995--in an office at the other end of the state in Tallahassee.  Since I live in Tallahassee, Richard telephoned to ask if I could go examine the notebook.  My report follows.

    Two years later, on July 15, 1997, Congressman Dave Weldon bypassed all committee hearings and introduced on the floor of the U. S. House of Representatives an amendment to a spending appropriations bill that would prohibit signs at Canaveral National Seashore informing people where the nude section began and ended.  The reason was that signs work in reducing conflict.  Canaveral had tried them briefly, and the church people found too few conflicts to agitate about.

    Weldon’s amendment read, “None of the funds made available in this or any other Act for any fiscal year may be used to designate, or to post any sign designating, any portion of Canaveral National Seashore in Brevard County, Florida, as a clothing-optional area or as an area in which public nudity is permitted, if such designation would be contrary to county ordinance.”

    In his hand, Weldon waved a black notebook, declaiming, “I have a beach in my district, Canaveral National Seashore.  It is a beautiful beach, a pristine beach, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful on the entire east coast of the United States.  Several years ago this beach began to be taken over by nudists and other people who engage in lewd and lascivious activity.  I have with me today a binder containing more than 250 police reports indicating the nature of this lewd and lascivious behavior.

    “This amendment is not about prohibiting people from sunbathing in the nude or swimming in the nude.  This amendment is about sexual harassment of a form and nature that pales in comparison to what we see on job sites in many of our places today.  Indeed if I were to describe some of the content of what is going on on this beach in my district, we would need a rating system for C-SPAN.

    “I repeat, this is not just about nude sunbathers.  This is about a lot of behavior that I would rather not even describe here on the floor of the House.”  The passage of Weldon’s amendment on the floor of the U. S. House of Representatives was assured by the solid majority of members from his own party.  Twenty-five Democrats stood against the amendment, but they gave reasons that had nothing to do with nudity--mostly that counties do not determine the rules for federal land.

    Republican leaders carried the prohibition forward into appropriations bills for the next ten years.  When Democrats took control of the House in 2007, the Weldon Amendment quietly disappeared.  (That has not prevented Canaveral officials from claiming that it is still in effect, preventing them from putting up informational signage.  They have, however, spent federal money to put up signs about a county anti-nudity ordinance that rangers do not enforce.)

    Richard Mason again filed a Freedom of Information request to see what was inside Weldon’s notebook.  But the book had mysteriously disappeared.  Weldon claimed he had borrowed it from the National Parks Service and returned it to them.  They claimed to know nothing about any notebook.  It has never surfaced again.  Richard Mason writes, “I am 99% sure that the Weldon book is the same prop that Ball was using.”  Indeed, if Weldon’s count is accurate, no one had even bothered to add the reports from 1994, ‘95, or ‘96.  And so it seems that I am the only non-government person ever to set eyes on the contents of the infamous black notebook.

    What I found was 267 Incident Reports (plus 15 duplicate reports) spread over four years--a remarkably low number for the millions of visitors each year.  An Incident Report does not necessarily mean violation of any law.  Vague busybody complaints heard later in the day qualify as incidents.  Even politely asking the ranger for directions to the nude section of the beach was once written up as an incident.  Nor did the reports indicate on which section of Canaveral’s beach they had taken place--whether in the one clothing-optional area, or the twelve swimsuit-required areas.

    The notebook showed what we already knew: that park rangers notoriously issue tickets for breaking the wrong law.  If someone refuses to pay the fine and insists on fighting the case in court, the Prosecuting Attorney then changes the charge to something he hopes he can win.  Most of the reports had nothing to do with nude recreation.  Rangers are supposed to list which law they think is being broken.  The notebook contained these:

FL 800.03--Exposure of Sexual Organs.  The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that this law does not apply to skinny-dipping unless lewd behavior is also present.  Prosecutors know this, but many rangers do not.

FL 877.03--Disorderly Conduct.  Prosecutors like this vague charge--though the courts have ruled that a person must be awake to be disorderly.  Most of the Disorderly conduct reports involved loud radios or alcohol--seldom nudity.

FL 798.02--Lewd and Lascivious Behavior.  Nudists have long insisted that this is the appropriate law for sexual acts--nude or not.  In fact, most of the reports made no mention of nudity.  The law is aimed mainly at unmarried couples living together.

2.04(2)(E)--A catch-all park regulation that includes “creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition.”  (Filing a false report with a ranger also comes under this provision, but it was not used for that.)

1990
cited warned uncaught
800.03--34 incidents
5 5 Nude recreation
1 Sleeping nude on beach

1 Nude in boat
8 2 3 Sex acts
1 Skin-colored swimsuit
1 Picking flowers (clothed)
1 6 Insufficient detail
Law unlisted--49 incidents & 15 duplicates
9 5 2 Nude recreation
1 Nude castaway
1 Sleeping nude on beach
1 Mentally incompetent nude
2 2 Changing, showering, relieving oneself
2 1 Nude or topfree photography
9 1 9 Sex acts
1 Alcohol (no nudity)
1 Cut hand (no nudity)
1 Illegal size fish
2 Insufficient detail

1991
800.03--20 incidents reported
5 4 Nude recreation
1 Relieving oneself
1 Topfree photography
2 1 Sex acts
1 Thong swimsuit
4 Insufficient detail
877.03--18 non-nude incidents, plus:
2 Relieving oneself
1 Pretending to undress
1 Wet T-shirt in single-sex shower
798.02--23 non-nude incidents, plus:
1 Nude recreation
2.04(2)(E)--8 incidents
2 Nude recreation
3 Theatrical nudity
1 Sex acts
2 Thong swimsuit
Law unlisted--7 incidents
1 Nude recreation
1 1 Sex acts
2 Sex acts (fully clothed)
2 Insufficient detail

1992
800.03--33 incidents
6 3 1 Nude recreation
2 1 Partial nudity in car
1 Relieving oneself
7 1 2 Sex acts
1 Inquiry for directions to nude beach
8 Insufficient detail
877.03--26 incidents, none involving nudity
798.02--15 incidents, all sex acts

1993
800.03--43 incidents
13 3 Nude recreation
1 Partial nudity in car
1 Changing or showering
9 3 1 Sex acts
1 Nude gawking
1 Entering wrong-sex restroom
1 Unleashed dog.  Secondary “mooning” of officer by pulling leg of swimsuit up over 1 buttock
1 Argument (no nudity)
18 Insufficient detail
877.03--43 non-nude incidents, plus:
3 Nude recreation
1 Sex acts
798.02--13 non-nude incidents, plus
1 1 1 Nude recreation

Notes

877.03 incidents were mostly loud radios or alcohol.

798.02 incidents were mostly sex acts.

Sex offenders were mostly flashers, or masturbators in slightly lowered swimsuits.  No rapes reported.

The very few cases involving juveniles all had to do with clothed rowdiness.



MacArthur Beach State Park, Florida

    For more than 25 years, philanthropist and skinny-dipper John D. MacArthur owned the oceanfront Florida property popularly called "Air Force Beach" because of nude sunbathing by the many pilots stationed in nearby Palm Beach.  Walt Disney and other visiting celebrities probably skinny-dipped there too.  MacArthur expressed the wish that this little piece of paradise be preserved in the Florida State Park System.  His son, Rod, carried out that wish.

    Almost immediately, park officials began arresting the traditional skinny-dippers.  Rod MacArthur wrote the following letter to clarify the intentions of his gift.  Unfortunately, the writer died shortly afterward, and the family's wishes were ignored.  When T. A. Wyner protested this miscarriage of justice, park officials arrested her.  She fought the arrest on first amendment grounds, and won.  But park officials continue to issue warnings and/or tickets for skinny-dipping at this traditional nude beach.  Just lately, there has been more tolerance.

John D. and Catherine T.
MacArthur Foundation

May 21, 1982

Governor Bob Graham
The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32301

Dear Governor Graham:

Thank you again for your very friendly reception when we visited last March on the occasion of presenting our John D. MacArthur Beach State Park plan to you and your cabinet.  Thanks, too, for your well wishes on the opening of my exhibit in Palm Beach Gardens.

In connection with the State Park, Elton Gissendanner and Ney Landrum of the Department of Natural Resources have asked me to write you in support of the people who have traditionally practiced clothing-optional bathing and sunbathing on its beach.

As you may remember, my father owned the entire 345-acre area, part of which was sold and part donated to become the State Park.   He always resisted the temptation to exploit it commercially and not only tolerated but positively approved of the nude bathing and sunbathing which became customary at the beach.  (He'd always been a "skinnydipper" himself.)  So the use of this beach by the clothing-optional people has been institutionalized over a quarter of a century.

Since this is a very long beach of a mile and a half, it has been proposed that this usage now be restricted to a very small proportionate area of some 1500 feet at the most extreme end away from the entrance area, this isolated section to be clearly marked and its limits respected.

Unfortunately, misunderstanding and controversy were unnecessarily produced recently when the state started to prohibit the clothing-optional people from using any part of the beach because it was incorrectly claimed that they were trying to retain the entire beach.

As far as I know, this was never the case, but from the beginning of my efforts to make the area a state park, I have always assumed that these people would be permitted to continue in a small isolated section of the beach.   I very much hope you will agree and will deeply appreciate your help.

Very  sincerely yours,   

[signed Rod MacArthur]
J. Roderick MacArthur  
 
rm/jr
cc   The Governor's  Cabinet
      Dr. Elton Gissendanner
      Mr. Ney Landrum

Suite 700, 140 South Dearborn, Chicago, Illinois 60603 312-726-8000



San Onofre State Park, California

State Spent Over $40,000 to Fight Nudists
By Cindy Carcamo

    Our collection of historic beach documents continues to grow with this recent piece of fine investigative journalism in California:

Orange County Register
November 25, 2009

    SAN ONOFRE--State officials spent more than $42,000 battling a group of nudists who wanted to keep Trail 6 a clothing-optional beach, California Department of Parks and Recreation documents show.

    Also, a public records request for all reports and complaints relating to public nudity at Trail 6 revealed only two written complaints.

    Park officials had said a growing number of complaints were one of the factors for banning nudity at Trail 6.

    The documents shed light on more than a year of legal wrangling between a group of nudists who want to keep a portion of San Onofre State Beach clothing-optional and park officials who issued a crackdown on nudity in June 2008.

    The fight essentially came to a close when the California Supreme Court decided against hearing the nudist group's latest petition.

    Allen Baylis, a Huntington Beach attorney who led the fight against the ban said state officials could have saved the legal costs and grief, if they had engaged the public rather than "mandating their point of view."

    "They would have saved the state that money if they had simply decided to go ahead and work with us instead of forcing us into litigation," said Baylis, a director of the Naturist Action Committee.

    Ken Kramer, district superintendent of the Orange Coast District, said the money spent was well worth it.

    "Our approach to this issue transcends dollars and cents," Kramer said.  "This is money well spent to make sure we address these concerns.  We have the duty to make sure that with this type of increased popularity and visitation, that we have a park where all visitors feel welcome, and that there is lawful activity occurring."

    Kramer said providing a safe and comfortable environment for park employees, an increasing amount of criminal activity in the area and a growing number of complaints were their impetus for enforcing a nudity ban at a 1,000-foot stretch of secluded beach abutting Camp Pendleton.

    When asked as to how two complaints about public nudity jived [jibed] with the claim of a growing number of complaints, Kramer said that the majority of complaints were verbal.

    The agency, however, has not documented nor kept track of such verbal complaints, Kramer said.

    He did not comment about why the agency did not keep track of verbal complaints.

    "It couldn't have been too serious," Baylis said, questioning Kramer's reasoning.  "If they took verbal complaints seriously, they would have documented them."

    Kramer instead pointed to what he said was an increased level of criminal activity in the surrounding areas of Trail 6.

    A document of about 150 criminal incidents for about the last 10 years includes citations and arrests on suspicion of lewd conduct, indecent exposure and sexual assault.

    While Kramer stopped short of blaming the nudists, he did say there was a correlation between the two.

    "I don't think we can ignore the fact that we have a substantial criminal activity problem where nude recreation is going on," he said.

    Baylis, who leads Naturists in the O[range] C[ounty], said the data is not reliable.

    He points out that the data includes more than just the clothing-optional beach but also surrounding areas, such as the parking lot and areas on top of the bluffs.

    In some instances, he said, incidents in the data are doubled and even quadrupled.

    "They inflated their numbers by the way they counted them," he said.

    Baylis said the naturists have helped police the area, which had been one of the few "clothing optional" beaches for decades.

    Regardless, Kramer said they are forced to enforce the nudity ban.

    "We have to default to protect the interest of folks who abide by the law," he said.  "At some point, I'm sure that folks will not comply voluntarily, and we'll be forced to take it to the next level.  We'll have to cross that bridge when we get there."


Three readers wrote in with additional information:

Reader 1:
    When reviewing the 150 incident reports, it is clear that most of these reported incidents occurred in the parking lot, on Camp Pendelton, in campground sites, close to the restrooms, or as far away as San Mateo Camp Ground or the intersection of El Camino Real and Cristianitos Road.  If the real intention is to eliminate the lewd behavior they better close all of San Onofre and San Mateo Campgrounds, Camp Pendelton and part of San Clemente as well....
    The reported lewd activity occurs after hours or winter months when there are few visitors on the beach, and not when they are surrounded by naturists.  Removing the naturist will result in less visitors, and consequently more situations for lewd activity to occur.

Reader 2:
    How about the 15 bucks per car parking fee that the state no longer collects from the nudists?  To think the state is closing state parks because they don't have any money.

Reader 3:
    The State park system has wasted your tax dollars!  I have been riding my mountain bike on the trail down there for about seven years.  Once in a while you will see a guy-to-guy couple showing affection to each other.  But it's south, past the [military] base fence.  Not on the state beach property.  I have noticed over the years that if I don't arrive early all the parking at trail six is full.  Also on warm days trail four and three are full.  Half the park?  What does that tell me?
    People are willing to spend their hard-earned money to enjoy the sun and have some peace and quiet.  So back off!  For those who are curious, I am not a nudist--just someone tired of a@#h@les that think they know it all.  Look at our state, a joke that continues to got down the drain!  Who do you think pays for annual passes?  HELLO!

Poll:
    In a newspaper poll of readers, 95% said the state should not have spent the money fighting sunbathers, 4% thought the money was well spent, and 1% couldn’t decide.


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