NAC Advisory
Sauvie Island
May 11, 2001

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Bob Morton, NAC Chairman/Exec Dir.   |
Mark Storey, NAC Board Member        |
Scootch Pankonin, Gov't Affairs      |
Dennis Kirkpatrick, Online Rep.      |

DATE   : May 11, 2001

SUBJECT: Ruling in Sauvie Island Case

TO: All Naturists

Circuit Court Judge Ted E. Grove has issued a ruling in the lawsuit filed against the state of Oregon by a couple who purchased property adjacent to Collins Beach, a popular clothing-optional site on Sauvie Island.

The ruling is perhaps most important to naturists for what it does not do. It does NOT prohibit nudity at the beach. The ruling does NOT find nudity at the beach to be illegal or a public nuisance.

The judge's ruling, which was issued in the form of an injunction, does require the State to abate a private nuisance the judge found to exist when people are nude on or in the immediate vicinity of the private property of Glen Mark and Teri Powers, the couple who brought the suit. The private property is adjacent to a far boundary of Collins Beach. The ruling requires the State to enhance an existing "buffer zone" with plantings and visual barriers, and it requires the State to install signage advising beachgoers of the boundary of the clothing-optional area.

Additionally, the State has been instructed to develop informational pamphlets concerning the clothing-optional use of the beach and to increase patrols to address illicit sexual activity. Though statistically minuscule in comparison with the total number of beach users, alleged incidents of overt sexual activity on or near the plaintiffs' property played a major role in the judge's findings.

The Naturist Action Committee acted as intervener in the lawsuit. No naturists were named in the suit, but it was clear that naturist issues were involved. The property owners initially sought to have all nudity banned on the state-owned portions of the island by having nudity declared to be both a private and public nuisance. NAC believed the state of Oregon could not properly be expected to represent or defend the interests of naturists, and that was the basis of NAC's intervention.

As is the case with any activist tactic, there have been those who have challenged and second guessed NAC's intervention. The couple who own the property vigorously opposed NAC's participation, and they made multiple legal motions to have NAC removed from the case. However, the state's attorney welcomed NAC in its role as intervener, and Judge Grove declared NAC to be "the most appropriate group to be representing the users" of the beach.

Nevertheless, some naturists have been among NAC's critics in this case. A few would have preferred that NAC stay on the sidelines and allow the State to represent the interests of naturists. Some felt NAC should have done even more in its role as intervener. Curiously, there are some who have managed to espouse both those points of view.

NAC's decision to intervene on behalf of naturists was motivated by the realization that without such an activist tactic, no naturist voice would be heard in the legal proceedings that so clearly affected naturists.

The ruling cannot be considered to be an unqualified success for naturists. That description could probably have been used only if the lawsuit had simply vanished. With or without NAC's involvement, that obviously was not going to happen.

It is NAC's assessment that without its intervention:

  1) a declaration of nudity as a public nuisance would have been likely. The probable outcome of such a declaration would have been the elimination of nudity at Collins Beach.

  2) the description of the private nuisance would have been much more broad and dangerously far-reaching.

  3) no naturist testimony whatsoever would have been included. That testimony, introduced by NAC, was crucial in establishing that illicit sexual activity on the beach is not condoned by naturist users. Naturist testimony allowed the judge to draw a tighter definition of what constitutes the private nuisance. NAC introduced only what was necessary, and it was accepted by the judge. Although NAC understood that more was available, there was no benefit to presenting evidence in greater volume.

  4) no challenge at all would have been made to the plaintiffs' evidence. The state's attorney indicated early in the process that his defense would be limited to protecting the State and its employees from any judgment that they had acted improperly or illegally. NAC's challenges to the evidence did not eliminate it altogether, but they resulted in diminished impact for some of the more damaging claims, especially those involving specious statistical claims.

NAC attempted unsuccessfully to show that the property owners had "come to the nuisance." Despite the fact that the beach had been a well known clothing-optional site for years, the judge found that since the plaintiffs had purchased the property in the wintertime when few, if any, folks were nude on the beach, they could not be held responsible for "coming to the nuisance." The logical flaw is troubling.

Overall, NAC believes the outcome is a quite positive one.

  a) The beach remains clothing-optional.
  b) Informational signage and literature will be improved.
  c) Visual barriers will be enhanced.
  d) Private property will be respected.
  e) Illicit sexual activity will be curbed.

These are many of the same things naturists themselves consider to be important in the establishment of a clothing-optional site.

For more information, including the complete texts of the judge's findings and ruling, you may visit the NAC web site:

Click on "White Papers" and then select "Sauvie Island."

The Naturist Action Committee is the volunteer nonprofit political arm of The Naturist Society. NAC's mission is to advance and protect the rights of naturists throughout North America.

NAC has no membership roster on which to assess dues. It relies on voluntary donations from concerned naturists. Activist tactics like NAC's intervention in the Sauvie Island lawsuit are expensive. If you would like to support NAC's efforts, please send a contribution of any amount to:

  P.O. Box 132
  Oshkosh, WI 54903

If your prefer to donate by phone using you credit card, please call (920)426-5009.

NAC thanks you for making a difference!


Bob Morton
Chairman & Executive Director
Naturist Action Committee