Wisconsin cracks down on sex, drugs at nude beach

TOWN OF MAZOMANIE, Wis. (AP) –Nudity on the beach? Sure. Sex in the woods? No way.

Nudists from around the country have flocked to a section of soft, sandy Wisconsin River shoreline for decades, confident police and prosecutors won’t go after them for leaving their Bermudas and bikinis behind. But the fun doesn’t stop at volleyball and sunbathing — many people are slipping off into the woods for sex. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden reports read like pornographic novels, but the agency can’t seem to halt the hookups.

“They were having sex right on the islands, the sandbars when the river was lower,” said Ruth Bender, who owns property directly across the river from the beach. “People can’t understand something like that is going on. That’s a nice section of the river. I don’t know what fun they get out of that.”

The DNR bought the sandbar-studded section of the Wisconsin River about 25 miles northwest of the capital of Madison in 1949 in an effort to open up more land for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities. The parcel, just north of Mazomanie, a city of about 1,400 people, includes a naturally secluded beach that offers spectacular views of the surrounding forest and bluffs.

Droves of nudists claimed the beach as their own decades ago as word spread that that prosecutors in Dane County, perhaps the most liberal jurisdiction in the state, wouldn’t go after anyone just for shedding their swimsuits. The DNR estimates as many as 70,000 people have visited the beach some summers.

“It’s difficult to find a place (to be nude),” said Bob Morton, executive director of the Austin, Tex., Naturist Action Committee, which lobbies on behalf of nudists. He said he has visited the beach several times. “Being able to connect with nature is a powerful connection when you go to a place like a river. You feel a certain sense of personal freedom that you don’t really get sitting in your apartment in Milwaukee.”

Wisconsin law makes “publicly and indecently” exposing one’s genitals a misdemeanor, but a succession of Dane County district attorneys have said nudists must cause some sort of disturbance before they can be prosecuted.

Their lack of action has inflamed some of the nudists’ opponents. Minister Ralph Ovadal led protests at the beach. Assembly Republicans passed a bill in 1999 to ban nudity on public land, but the measure went nowhere.

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