Nudists create another stir

Posted

Wednesday, May 16
BRATTLEBORO -- It's springtime, when flowers bloom, trees gain a new growth of leaves and sun worshippers take their clothes off in the Harmony Parking Lot.

Reported sightings of nudists in Brattleboro have trickled in since the warm weather found its way back into Vermont again, and not everyone is amused.

"I looked out my window and saw a man in his 60s walking up and down Main Street totally nude," said Brattleboro resident Theresa Toney, about having dinner in town and spying the nude man through the restaurant window. "This is indecent exposure where it doesn't belong."

Toney wanted to know what the members of the Selectboard thought about the nudity and what they planned to do "about this behavior."

"I've spoken with the town manager," said Selectboard Chairwoman Audrey Garfield, who said a complaint log had been created to keep track of such incidents.

"A file is being created," said Garfield. "The board will look at this issue in the near future."

She said town staff has been asked to conduct "fact finding" as well as assessing the language of an ordinance that was proposed last year prohibiting nudity in Brattleboro. The ordinance was defeated. Last year, when nudists doffed their clothes in Harmony Parking Lot, the story found its way to news outlets around the world.

This was a concern of one local pastor.

"How do you want to be viewed as Brattleboro?" asked the Rev. Kevin Horion. "We want to welcome families with small children."

With nudists likely to pop up anywhere, he said, "I am concerned we don't know where they are going to strike."

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The Selectboard should consider what effect public nudity has on the children in the community, others said, saying that nudists in the Harmony Lot can be seen by children boarding special education buses in the parking lot.

"I encourage you to consider that we are asking our young people who attend Brattleboro Union High School to adhere to a dress code," said Mike Brooks, of Vernon. He said it might be considered hypocritical for the high school to expect the students to stick to the dress code if after school they can go downtown and see nudists.

"It's difficult as a parent," he said. "We try to explain to kids the dangers of predators."

It's very hard to explain to a 10-year-old the difference between freedom of expression and predatory behavior, said Brooks.

One member of the Selectboard took offense at Brooks' comment.

There have been no reports to the police that any predatory behavior has happened, said Rich Garant.

He said students must stick to the dress code while at school but "outside of the high school they have their own lives to live."

One woman was concerned that outsiders were telling the Selectboard how to handle the issue.

"Last year, you had been approached by a national nudist organization," said Peggy Frost, of Vernon. "If so, what did they have to say?"

"They sent us some printed literature," said Selectboard member Dick DeGray, adding no one gave a presentation to the board. "No one has contacted us."

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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