Not since the terror attack of September 11, 2,001 has a disaster of this magnitude occurred in the New York Metro area. I’m referring, of course, to the August 8, 2013 crackdown on Long Island’s fabled nude beaches; and, there’s trouble brewing at nearby Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, also. It is with dismay that Spanking FIT finds itself in the awkward position of having to evaluate the mid-Atlantic’s “awesome” traditionally clothing- optional beaches during a period of considerable legal turmoil.
This is Part I-I (that’s I “eye”) of Spanking FIT‘s “International Nude Beach Evaluation” on the U.S. mid-Atlantic states. As in all of our previous segments, Spanking FIT meticulously conducted its evaluation in the three principal categories of health, safety, and enjoy-ability. In the health category, our evaluation includes beach cleanliness, water cleanliness, and the absence of parasites, including mosquitoes and flies. Safety includes primarily the risks of becoming a crime victim, or of being arrested for public nudity. Enjoy-ability factors include weather, scenery, and the sociability of beach participants. We begin with an evaluation of Gunnison Beach located in Sandy Hook, New Jersey mainly because it is still possible to “bare-all” here, provided certain precautions are taken.
Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook, New Jersey
Gunnison Beach takes its name from Battery Gunnison, a fortification of heavy guns mounted in 1904 for the defense of New York Harbor. It is named after Captain J. Gunnison who was attacked and killed by Native Americans around a half a century earlier. During the Cold War it served as a home to Nike Ajax and Hercules missiles.
The nude beach is located close to the tip of a barrier “spit” known as the Sandy Hook Peninsula. The latter is approximately 6 miles ( 10 km.) long and varies in width from 0.1 to 1.0 miles ( 0.2 to 1.6 km.). On its western side is Sandy Hook Bay and on the eastern side is the great Atlantic Ocean. Gunnison Beach is located on the Atlantic side and is a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area which is owned and operated by U.S. National Park Service. G.P.S. coordinates are N 40.4600 and W -73.9955. It is accessible by the Seastreak Ferry which departs daily from East 35th Street in downtown Manhattan. Total trip takes about 45 minutes. By car it is best to approach Gunnison by taking Route 36 off of the New Jersey Garden State Parkway south through the Atlantic Highlands, and then turning north up the peninsula on Hartshorne Dr.. Here’s how Spanking FIT rated it:
Water quality at all New Jersey beaches including Gunnison is monitored by the New Jersey State Department of Environmental Protection (D.O.E.P.) Cooperative Coastal Monitoring Program. Last summer ( August 2016), almost twenty beaches in Monmouth County including Gunnison and in nearby Ocean County were under “water quality advisories” due to elevated bacterial counts. Although Gunnison was temporarily closed to swimmers, it was open to nude sun bathers. Potential visitors should check for alerts at njbeaches.org. On the subject of beach cleanliness: Gunnison, like all Sandy Hook beaches, has a “carry-in/ carry-out” policy with respect to trash. In other words, visitors are theoretically required to dispose of their own garbage at home. Recently placed dumpsters near the parking area may be observed over-loaded with garbage. There was an absence of trash cans on the beach itself, and it was disappointing to observe that some beach visitors had left theirs’ behind. Luckily, glass bottles are banned completely at Gunnison Beach.
Gunnison also lacks adequate shelter from the sun. Bring along sun hats or umbrellas. Restrooms and outdoor showers are at the entrance near the parking lot where there is no nudity allowed. What a bummer!
Despite heroic efforts at mosquito control including “ditching” and spraying, Gunnison has a serious pest problem like all Jersey beaches. We were not especially bothered by it during our late May/ early June visit. However, as summer progresses, the problem definitely intensifies. There’s a problem as well with female green bottle flies who suck blood in order to feed their young. The tick population has been described as “phenomenal” by the experts, and the wooded area near Gunnison is often called the “poison ivy capitol” of New Jersey State. Is it necessary to dress-up at Gunnison Nude Beach in summer defeating the purpose of having a “clothing-optional beach”? Probably not; but, it can seem as if Mother Nature is conspiring at times with the northeastern prudes against healthy human naturist activity.
While many consider Sandy Hook to be part of New Jersey’s Middletown Township, technically it is part of Gateway National Recreation Area placing it on federal land. Consequently, Gunnison isn’t patrolled by the Middletown police, but rather by federal rangers. It is difficult to find online crime stats specific to Gunnison. However, according to cityrating.com, Middletown Township ranks way below the national average in both violent and property crime. Keep in mind, however, that portions of Sandy Hook can be quite deserted, and that crime in nearby Asbury Park is among the highest in New Jersey. There are even rumors that legendary labor boss Jimmy Hoffa may be buried here!
Regarding danger from law enforcement: While Gunnison still is an official and legal clothing-optional beach, recently there appears to have been a swell in the number of “lewd conduct” arrests made here. Rangers may be observed to”hide” in the dunes using binoculars to spy on nude sunbathers. It has been alleged that the mere touching of one’s genitalia while unclothed is considered adequate grounds by them for making an arrest. This may be a consequence of the recent decision by Gateway National Recreation to incorporate, of all things, New York (?) State’s more inclusive definition of public lewdness into their penal code. During our visit, rangers could be seen driving their vehicles in-between groups of naked sun bathers. They claim to be looking primarily for pot use (still a federal crime), and overt sexual activity. Be forewarned that under cover beach “snitches” may be lurking here, and that even the lifeguards are suspected of reporting beach-goer behavior to the cops. The beach has been jokingly referred to by European visitors as “a naked American mini-police state”! (Gunnison’s lifeguards do loyally perform their safety duties from 10A.M.- 6 P.M. daily Memorial Day through the Labor Day weekend.)
That, of course, brings us back to the question of why nudity is at all permitted in a state that contains some of the most socially conservative elements in the U.S. outside of the South? The answer may have something to do with Gunnison’s historical origins as a military installation until 1974 and the fact that all male soldiers from Fort Hancock would skinny-dip there routinely. Also, as previously noted, Gunnison is on federal land.
Is it really possible to enjoy and benefit from beach nudity while under heavy federal police surveillance and intermittent attack by blood-sucking insects? The answer is- you bet it is! First off, on the Atlantic side, Gunnison provides spectacular city views of Brooklyn and Manhattan. On the opposite side, you get scenic views of the dunes. What about in the middle? Since Gunnison, unlike many naturist retreats, appeals to a youthful crowd, you get a view of younger women and men in their 20’s and their 30’s here. (Not that we are “ageist” in any respect. Just honest.) By the way, beach rumor has it that’s radio “shock jock” Howard Stern in the above photo, sans jock.
As the largest East Coast clothing optional beach, Gunnison is host to literally thousands of visitors each week during summer months. The fact that alcohol use is permitted adds to the festive atmosphere and a complete removal of inhibitions to the chagrin of its beach “chaperones”, the federal police. (Gunnison is among the few “nude beaches” that have uniformed “gawkers”.) Incidentally, the northern part of it is fully clothed, the southern part is not, and the further south you go, the “gayer” it becomes.
Weather at the beach is typical mid-Atlantic which means hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It was warm and sunny, about 70 ° F. (21°C.) that afternoon that we visited in late May which is probably weather-wise and mosquito-wise the best time of the year to visit. Summertime daytime temperatures climb to the mid 80’s. Abrupt weather changes are not uncommon, and be advised that Atlantic hurricane season runs from beginning of June through end of November.
Nude Beaches- Fire Island, New York
If there is trouble brewing in Jersey, the situation is even more dire in nearby New York State where, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, seashore officials announced that they would commence enforcement of repressive New York State anti-nudity law at all Fire Island beaches. (Violators face wopping $5,000 fines and up to six months imprisonment.) The trouble started when, in February of 2013, Sandy ripped apart the boardwalk and destroyed the sand dunes suddenly exposing nude sun bathers to visiting tourists at one of New York’s most famous “clothing-optionals”- Lighthouse Beach. Officials used “concerns” that school children and others touring the lighthouse would view naked bodies as a pretext for their crackdown. Heaven forbid that these youngsters receive a human anatomy lesson along with the tour! Because Lighthouse Beach had served as a naturist haven since late 1800’s, these actions were nothing less than anti-nudist sacrilege. Cherry Grove Beach, another Fire Island nudist jewel, was also affected by the ban. The photo above from the New York Times is of happier times.
Why is the “Big Apple” all of a sudden losing its luster in this respect? How is it that such a regressive crackdown could occur in New York of all places where the populace, in general, prides itself in open-mindedness and sophistication? Readers keep in mind that mixed in with “sophisticates” is an array of extremely conservative elements including Orthodox Jews, Catholic dogmatists, and newly arrived Middle Eastern immigrants. Many of the latter cling stubbornly to their superstitious belief that the naked human body is shameful. Such attitudes are detrimental to the public health, in my opinion. (See: “Nude Sunbathing- It Does a Body Good!; Spanking FIT, Aug. 2015 ) Spanking FIT paid a visit to naturist victims of New York’s current anti-nudity “witch hunt”, and here’s what we uncovered:
Lighthouse Nude Beach (L.H.N.B)- west end of Fire Island
Located on the western end of Fire Island in Suffolk County, Long Island, is what remains of one of the mid-Atlantic’s most famous and historic nude beaches known as Lighthouse Beach. For readers not familiar with the geography of the region, Fire Island is a barrier island approximately 30 miles long and 0.5 miles wide separating the south side of Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean. As its name implies, Lighthouse Beach is adjacent to the Fire Island Lighthouse, the G.P.S. coordinates of which are 40.6322 N & 73.2186 W.. If travelling by car, take the Robert Moses Causeway south from vicinity of West Bay Shore, Long Island to Robert Moses State Park and head east on Robert Moses Parkway. (Think Robert Moses all the way and you can’t go wrong!) By heading straight to the water and then veering to the left or right you will arrive at the remnants of what once was one of the most popular clothing-optional havens from the New York City “rat race”. Literally thousands of naked beach-goers could be observed here on many a warm sunny day. There are even unconfirmed rumors that Jared Kushner, son-in-law to the current U.S. President, came here prior to his marriage to Ivanka.
We observed no beach trash cans during our visit except for the ones near the parking lot entrance. The beach itself was relatively litter-free on this beautiful June day. Since L.H.N.B. is also located in the state park, water quality is monitored by New York Parks Department (parks.ny.gov). The beach is closed when testing results exceed 104 enterococci colonies per 100 ml. of water, the current N.Y. State standard. L.H.N.B. is a “category 1” beach which indicates “low” exceedance rates and the necessity for resampling within 24 hours. The beach may also be closed for other reasons such as heavy rainfall, high waves, or a lack of available lifeguards. Readers check their website for “the latest”.
As is the case in New Jersey, flies, ticks, and mosquitoes are problematic here, especially during the summer months. Because L.H.N.B. is in a federal wild life preserve, there is no spraying of pesticides here. It is our theory that for healthy individuals, health risks from pesticide probably outweigh those from insects.
Crime stats specific to L.H.N.B. or Robert Moses State Park do not appear to be available online. However, according to one source, areavibes.com, crime totals on Fire Island are lower than both New York and U.S. national average. Despite this, the National Park Service claimed in a February 2013 report that a spike occurred that year in “lewd, lascivious, and voyeuristic” behavior at L.H.B. . They went on to claim that “suspected” prostitution, drug use, and assaults were on the rise. What did they do regarding it? Step up foot patrols? No, instead they decided to ban nude sun bathing! Their reasoning makes as little sense as that of certain middle eastern governments which purport to prevent rape by requiring women to be veiled in public! Surely such non-logic has no place in a nation that prides itself in being a world leader in civil liberties, and especially in a city that is home to the Statue of Liberty herself.
Despite the unjust nature of things, we decided to comply with the law and wore swim attire. That was not the case with a number of beach-goers that warm sunny day in June that we visited. Many appeared to be mocking the authorities by wearing G-strings and even completely transparent beach wear. One exceptionally beautiful young woman wore what appeared to be a see-through fish net. Carefully observing standard nude beach etiquette, no photos of beach-goers were taken on our part.
The June weather was absolutely gorgeous and the scenery matched. The wooly beach heather was still in bloom. Dense thickets of beach plum and bayberry were also visible by the dunes. The reddish spring poison ivy leaves were beginning to turn green. Look but don’t touch. They are the bane of many a sunbather, nude or otherwise.
Despite the ominous threat of law enforcement hanging over everyone, the atmosphere was quite lively. The further east that we went along the shore, the more naked bathers that we saw. Ironically, the looming crackdown seemed to have drawn participants closer to one another, and was sufficient to enhance the sociability of even the snottiest of Long Islanders. Since there have been no reports of binocular use by law enforcement or the employment of undercover cops, it may still be possible to acquire nude sunbathing health benefits here and simply cover up at the first sight of blue. Naturally, the psychological benefits of being bare are impaired by this silly predicament. As previously indicated, the eastern section of L.H.N.B. is best suited for being unsuited, since it is more remote.
Cherry Grove Nude Beach (C.G.N.B.) & the Fire Island Pines (F.I.P.)
C.G.N.B. is located in the town of Cherry Grove about seven miles east of the Fire Island Light House. No autos are permitted on the Island east of the Light House, so that your options are to walk the seven, take the ferry from the big L. Island, or sail your yacht. F.I.P. is only about a mile and a half walk on the beach from C.G.N.B.; hardly a hardship for fit Spanking FIT readers. Let me begin by saying that neither place is suitable for homophobes or those disturbed by the sight of same-sex couples holding hands. The entire town of Cherry Grove is often referred to as that “gay small town”, or more crudely as “Coney Island for queers”. Truthfully speaking, Cherry Grove is much cleaner and its visitors less rowdy. Many members of the “queer community” are attracted to the bars, discos, and the restaurants. So are lots of “straights”. Here’s how Spanking FIT rated this beach duo:
Both beaches are less populated than L.H.N.B.. Consequently, they are cleaner. Wooden walkways intended to protect the dunes lead down to C.G.N.B. No dogs allowed at C.G.N.B.. F.I.P., on the other hand, is more “dog friendly”. There’s the absence of restrooms on the beaches themselves.
Expect insect and poison ivy problems at both. Stay out of the woods! Beautiful wild life including deer inhabit them, but be warned that they are carriers of Lyme.
Because the beaches are a bit further out on the Atlantic, water quality tends to be better than at L.H.N.B.. However, closures and alerts may still occur.
Both the towns of Cherry Grove and of Fire island Pines are affluent, so there is little chance of being victimized by anything except “white collar’ crime. As previously noted, the announced nudity crackdown applies to both of these locations, as well. Visitors be extremely cautious in traversing the so-called “meat rack”, so named on account of the alleged sexually promiscuous behavior which goes on there. While Spanking FIT advocates public beach nudity, it does not advocate public sex at the beach. Casual encounters which may involve multiple sex partners contribute to spread of S.T.D.s. However, they need to be minimized through education and not by law enforcement, in our opinion. The “meat rack” is that stretch of dune that connects the two beaches.
Exercise caution when swimming. No lifeguards were present.
Whether you are “straight”, “gay”,”bi”, or “tri” (you’ll try anything), C.G.N.B. and F.I.P. are places to be. Straight guys love the sight of naked lesbians, and for straight gals, the predominantly gay Pines provides lots of “eye candy”. (Just don’t expect to give out too many phone numbers ladies.)
The “no automobiles allowed” policy provides visitors an opportunity to enjoy an exhilarating workout at the same time by walking or biking. One nude lady that we interviewed put it extremely well: “f__k the feds! I plan to go on doing what I’ve been doing for decades!” Bravo sister, bravo!
The long established naturist tradition at mid-Atlantic beaches is under siege by the forces of superstition and anti-science. The potential harm to human health is immeasurable (don’t forget: “Nude Sunbathing-it Does a Body Good!”; Spanking FIT, Aug. 2015). Will the U.S. mid-Atlantic situation devolve toward the state of affairs in Mexico? (see: “Dangerously Naked-Nude Beaches of Mexico“, April 2016) ; or, will the voice of reason prevail as was the case in Cuba (see:”Fellow Travelers Hit the Nude Beaches of Communist Cuba!“, Nov. 2016) and in the U.S. Pacific Northwest and Canadian Vancover (see: “International Nude Beach Evaluation Part I-B“, Aug. 2015). The future remains to be seen.
In the meantime, travelers have two options: either exercise caution when visiting U.S. mid-Atlantic beaches, or maybe take your business elsewhere in protest. Why not go to North or South Carolina, instead? (See:”Naked Carolina“, March 2017) In the wake of their “bathroom controversy”, both states are seeking tourists.
Cordially, Dr. Garrett
Featured photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/michael_harold/5816735007/in/photolist-
Creative commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/