Westmore decides not to ban nudity on Willoughby beach

06/24/08 7:34AM By Charlotte Albright
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AP Photo/A. Pellett
  (Host) Sunbathers and swimmers will still be allowed to take off their clothes at a secluded beach on Willoughby Lake in the Northeast Kingdom.

Following more than six months of wrangling in public hearings and the media, all three selectmen of the town of Westmore voted last night to table a controversial proposal to ban nudity.

VPR's Charlotte Albright reports.

(Sounds of beach)

(Albright) Thunder and lightning storms kept swimmers away from the south cove of Willoughby Lake yesterday afternoon, but one regular who loves to spend time in the buff here with his wife and friends ventured down the well-trod, tree-lined path -fully clothed-with his camera.

(Lanoue) "To take closing pictures, I think. I'm not giving this beach up, me and a bunch of people who come down here, but we will have to wear swim suits."

(Albright) Roger Lanoue, of Orleans, says he's been relaxing in the nude at this beach for over twenty years without much hassle. But he predicted victory for landowners who have been petitioning for an anti-nudity ordinance. Among them--Beverly Francolino ,a grandmother and nurse who said at last night's meeting that she's not afraid of nudity.

(Francolino) "It's just the fact that you don't want to have to explain these things to children when you take them to the beach."

(Albright) But nudity supporters also spoke up, and in the end, the selectmen decided not to decide-at least, for the foreseeable future, explaining that the town does not have the resources to enforce such a ban. They noted that there is no state law against public nudity, and that the beach is part of a state forest. That brought angry murmurs and a rebuke from the leader of the anti-nudity group, Tony Strange.

(Strange) "Our town is gonna become known as a place that doesn't have common decency. Nude lake. . .listen, you know what, it's a free country."
(Selectman Robert Cummings) May we have order please? (gavel bangs)

(Sounds of parking lot)

(Albright) As the crowd headed in two separate packs for the parking lot, Ruth Gjessing, an 83-year old who opposed the ban, wished for a return to peace and quiet in this scenic spot.

(Gjessing) "I hope there is relief, this whole thing has been so overblown that it's been very disappointing and saddening to me."

(Albright) Gjessing also hopes that an adjacent beach can be made more attractive to swimmers who want to keep their clothes on.

For VPR news, I'm Charlotte Albright.

AP Photo/Alden Pellett

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