NAC Success Story:
Canaveral National Seashore
- Apollo Beach (2000)

Canaveral National Seashore (CANA) features 24 miles of undeveloped barrier island. Apollo Beach occupies the northern portion of the Seashore. Click on the Park Service map for a detailed view of Canaveral.
(235K JPG format)

 

Naturist Action Committee Brokers Historic Deal with Park Service Unit for Official Recognition of Nude Beach

"CANA agrees to provide informational signage identifying the historical clothing optional area..."  
                                       - from the agreement signed April 14, 2000

An eleventh hour negotiation brokered by the Naturist Action Committee (NAC) with Canaveral National Seashore (CANA) has not only avoided an outright ban on nudity throughout a large part of the National Park Service unit, it has resulted in official recognition of the historic clothing optional use of a portion of the beach.

The agreement is intended to minimize conflict between nude and clothed users of the Seashore and pertains to the Volusia County (Apollo Beach) section of the Seashore. It calls for standard "Beyond This Point" nude beach signage to be put in place by CANA. Naturists have committed to a voluntary effort that directs nude activities to the traditional area of the beach south of Apollo's parking lot 5. Seashore personnel are to pass out informational flyers at the Apollo Beach entry gate, informing visitors of the agreement.

In addition to NAC and Canaveral National Seashore, signatories to the historic agreement include The Naturist Society (TNS), the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) and the Florida Association for Nude Recreation (FANR). The National Nudist Council (NNC) has also indicated its endorsement of the agreement.

History and Geography

Canaveral National Seashore was created in 1975 from a part of the federal land that had been set aside in the late 1950 as a buffer zone for the facilities of the nearby National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA still owns much of the 57,600 acres administered by the National Park Service, and parts of CANA are closed for safety and security reasons each time NASA makes a Space Shuttle launch from the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

The park spans portions of two Florida counties, and there are clothing-optional beaches in both counties. Playalinda is in Brevard County to the south, and is accessible from Titusville. The traditional nude beach at Playalinda is at its far north end.

Apollo Beach in April, 2000. The beach is constantly changing, since the ocean can bring in (or take out!) as much as 8-10 feet of sand with the normal flow of the tide. Hurricanes and other tropical storms exaggerate the effect. Though recent storms punished Playalinda and left dune damage that threatens a breach to the lagoon behind the barrier island, far less effect is evident at Apollo, just a dozen miles to the north.

Farther north, in Volusia County, is Apollo Beach, the traditional nude portion of which is at its southernmost end. Apollo is accessed from the town of New Smyrna Beach. A relatively inaccessible stretch of coastline called Klondike Beach separates the the two nude beaches, and although the two nude areas are just twelve miles apart as the crow flies, it's much farther when you have to take the state's paved highways from one to the other. It's farther yet in terms of the county politics that distinguish Volusia from Brevard.

Early inhabitants of the Canaveral area had no need of clothing when they bathed. Those indigenous people, celebrated in this poster hanging in the Canaveral National Seashore office in Titusville, are the subject of intense anthropological interest for the ways in which their lifestyle reflected a natural harmony with the Florida coast.

The twenty-four mile long barrier island that comprises the Seashore is the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on Florida's east coast. The nude use of portions of the beach predates the establishment of the park. In fact, posters hung proudly in Seashore headquarters portray indigenous Americans from 800 A.D. casually bathing nude in the warm coastal waters of what is now Canaveral National Seashore, while others tend to everyday chores and naked children play nearby. Those early natives harvested oysters and discarded their shells in enormous heaps that survive to this day in the park and are studied by archeologists.

In more recent times, Naturists at Canaveral have experienced less idyllic times. The tenure of Superintendent Wendell Simpson in the mid-1990s was marked by outright hostility to nude recreation. Although Simpson once erected signs at the beach informing visitors that they might encounter nudity, most observers agreed he took the action with the intent of provoking a public backlash. When a court ruled that the signs provided a degree of legal protection for nude beachgoers, Simpson immediately had them removed.

above: Brevard County sheriff's deputies patrol Playalinda on Memorial Day, 1998, looking for nudity.

below: In a formidable show of force on Memorial Day, 1998, three Park Service rangers join two Brevard deputies on 4-wheelers as they cruise Playalinda.

In 1995, with the encouragement of CANA Superintendent Simpson, Brevard County passed an ordinance that prohibited nudity, and even banned thong bathing suits. The ancient Timucuan and Seminole Indians, custodians of the land for centuries before the Brevard commissioners imposed their arbitrary standards, would have been criminals for their attire - or their casual lack of it. Brevard sheriff's deputies began enforcing the ordinance on the federal land of the Seashore, a controversial action that has drawn a federal lawsuit. Although CANA and the state of Florida have a concurrent jurisdiction agreement, it is absolutely unclear that such an arrangement allows the enforcement of local ordinances on federally-owned property. Central Florida Naturists (CFN), an affiliate of The Naturist Society, has sued Brevard County over the jurisdictional issue.

Undaunted, Superintendent Simpson made a pitch to Volusia County lawmakers, suggesting that they adopt the same anti-nudity ordinance as Brevard. Simpson's overtures were rebuffed, and the political atmosphere regarding nudity in Volusia County remains very different from neighboring Brevard.

Weldon

-Alex Siodmak

Simpson

In 1997, the Brevard portion of Canaveral received Congressional attention when Congressman David Weldon (R-Florida) proposed an amendment to an agency spending bill so that federal funds could not be used to place signs marking a clothing optional area in Brevard County, if any county ordinance prohibits it. That restriction has been perpetuated in the spending bills of subsequent years. Of course, the wording of Brevard's anti-nudity ordinance renders it ineffective on CANA property if Canaveral National Seashore chooses to designate an official area for clothing-optional recreation.

Eventually, Wendell Simpson moved on to another Park Service assignment. As with almost everything else about Simpson, there was controversy over his leaving. Simpson supporters, who were largely comprised of those opposed to Naturism, worked hard to represent his reassignment as a promotion, while others saw it as a deserved rebuke for his intentional mishandling of the nude recreation issue.

"Just because he isn't promoting the Clinton administration's political agenda regarding nudity, he is being forced out of his job."

-Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Fla., July 25, 1997, on the transfer of Canaveral National Seashore Superintendent Wendell Simpson in the midst of a controversy over nude sunbathing along the seashore.

Simpson was replaced as Canaveral Superintendent by Robert F. Newkirk, a Park Service veteran with a reputation for problem solving. Newkirk's previous assignment had been at the NPS regional office in Atlanta, and it was widely believed that he had been selected for the post at Canaveral so that a proper resolution could be made concerning the increasingly contentious issue of nude recreation.

Newkirk quickly assessed the situation and let it be known that a solution would be tried first at Apollo, with possible later application at Playalinda. Local Naturists, impatient for visible signs of an improvement after years of suffering under Simpson, eyed Newkirk warily.

"Accommodation"

Early in 2000, Canaveral Superintendent Newkirk proposed an "accommodation" for Naturist use of a portion of the beach. By Park Service edict, nudity would be strictly prohibited in the Volusia County portion of the park, except for an area in which the stricture would not apply.

The proposal was an attempt at a resolution, but the arrangement was considered by the Naturist Action Committee and others to be flawed, primarily because it involved an official ban on nudity for the greater part of the Volusia County section of the Seashore. That ban, called a "closure" in park service parlance, was to be an official act, while the "accommodation" was to be a somewhat informal concession, implied only by a geographical exclusion from the closure order.

In the area affected by the closure, persons who were nude could be cited for ignoring the order, an offense requiring an appearance before a federal magistrate. Additionally, the definition of nudity in the closed area would criminalize women's bare breasts, something beyond Florida state law.

Superintendent Robert F. Newkirk of Canaveral National Seashore.

Since the end of 1999, units of the National Park Service (NPS) have been authorized to establish areas for clothing-optional recreation through an official procedure called "designation." Previous Park Service internal policy had prevented designation, as it related to nudity, but that 1991 policy had been allowed to sunset with the end of the 1990's. (See NAC's White Paper "Whither Goest Special Directive 91-3?")

The "accommodation" proposal did not include designation, but it did include a closure, and one of NAC's major concerns was that the resulting imbalance in official policy was definitely not in favor of Naturists.

Nude recreation has been a high profile issue at Canaveral for a number of years. Because of  that, NAC recognized that other Park Service units were certain to follow Canaveral's lead in its handling of nudity. If superintendents in other parks were to look at the official record, all they would see would a closure to nudity. And they would clone it.

Superintendent Newkirk announced that he would accept written comments on his plan from members of the public, and he received more than 650 letters. Through a series of Advisories and Action Alerts, NAC had publicized the opportunity to comment, and many of those letters were from Naturists. But a strong anti-nudity contingent had been mobilized as well, and there were significant numbers of pleas for the Park Service to avoid any appearance of lending legitimacy to the nude use of Apollo.

A PO L L O
LOT# SPACES

1

89

2

25

3

25

4

25

5

37

Parking is in scarce supply at Apollo Beach. The five coastal lots include a combined total of only 201 parking spaces. Lot #5, which serves the clothing-optional beach area, has the second greatest number of spaces and includes access for handicapped beachgoers, a feature presently available elsewhere at Apollo only at Parking Lot #1. Lot #5 is at the end of the road that services the various parking lots. Because of the popularity of nude recreation, Lot #5 fills up early, especially on weekends. Roadside parking is strictly forbidden. The tight parking situation at Apollo reflects the longstanding intent of the Park Service to limit the density of human use in the Volusia County portion of Canaveral National Seashore, and it proves the adage: "When you control the parking, you control the park."

The specter of a closure order loomed large for many Naturists, particularly those (like NAC) who regularly deal with more than just one park. Members of Central Florida Naturists, with a tighter focus on the immediate problem at Canaveral, were particularly concerned that the proposal did nothing to enhance parking in the area to be excluded from the closure order. Nor did it provide additional restroom facilities there. From their point of view, the "accommodation" was strictly second class. They proposed moving the clothing-optional area to a spot with better access and facilities.

Superintendent Newkirk had concerns of his own. Specifically, he was forced to wonder how his staff could avoid user conflicts without the ability to enforce a closure order. The matter of enforcement was clearly poised to become a key issue.

Each coastal parking lot at Apollo has a chemical toilet, like this one at Lot #5. Wooden boardwalks from the parking lots to the beaches allow visitors to cross over the fragile dunes without destroying them. Naturists expressing concern over relatively scarce parking and toilet facilities have inevitably compared Apollo to Playalinda. At Apollo, five miles of beach are served by five small parking lots, while Playalinda's four miles of beach has 13 larger parking lots. NPS officials say the difference reflects CANA's General Plan, which calls for lower user density in the northern portion of the park.

At the urging of NAC's Government Affairs Representative Scootch Pankonin, NAC, along with the Naturist Education Foundation, retained a Washington, D.C. law firm with extensive experience in matters of enforcement, closures and designations.

Recommendations from the D.C. legal advisors became the basis for a counterproposal from NAC. NAC's proposal avoided a closure order and suggested a cooperative measure between Naturists and the Park Service that relied on information and education to avert user conflict between clothed and unclothed visitors to Apollo. True to NAC's grass roots genesis, the counterproposal was forwarded to CFN for presentation to Superintendent Newkirk. NAC also made certain that AANR was aware of the plan.

Closure

The leadership of Central Florida Naturists, admittedly skeptical from years of Park Service inaction, believed that no official action whatsoever would ultimately be taken on the closure /accommodation proposal. They viewed NAC's counterproposal with skepticism, too, and they distanced themselves from it, faxing it to the Seashore office with a noncommittal cover letter close to three weeks after having received it.

Superintendent Newkirk, who had known that NAC's proposal was coming, took CFN's delay and pointed lack of enthusiasm as a negative sign. He began putting in motion the steps necessary to implement his original plan, which included the closure order that would prohibit nudity in the major portion of the Volusia County section of CANA.

It's essential to understand the absolute reality of the intended closure order. Some nudists have suggested that it was merely a ruse, but that point of view is unsupported by facts, and it ignores the truth that a closure order had been the centerpiece of every draft of Supt. Newkirk's proposal for a solution at Apollo, including Draft 17, which is the one that was released for public comment on January 19, 2000.

Officials of some nudist organizations have called attention to the amount of money they've donated to the Seashore for repairs to storm-damaged boardwalks. But such previous good works by Naturists and nudists, as valuable as they may have been, had clearly not proven to be sufficient to prevent a closure order. Nor had the imminent closure order been averted by any organization's generation of highly touted "position papers" or by their attendance at public meetings. Letters from individual Naturists had been helpful in establishing the interest and support of the Naturist community, but at the end of the public process, the Superintendent's position was that a closure order was necessary, and he made it clear that he intended to implement such an order.

Negotiation

At the end of March, 2000, NAC received word that a date had been set for a declaration of the closure order banning nudity at most of Apollo Beach. With only 72 hours or so left before the the scheduled announcement. NAC contacted Superintendent Newkirk and asked for a delay. Within just a few days following that call, NAC chairman Bob Morton was on a plane to Florida to meet with Bob Newkirk.

The same recommendations that the Naturist Action Committee had included in its counterproposal became the basis for intense negotiations between NAC and CANA. Those negotiations went on for nearly a week, but they did not exist in a local vacuum. Through its hired counsel in D.C. and Scootch Pankonin, its Washington lobbyist, the Naturist Action Committee also reviewed the plan with highly-placed Park Service officials.

Though many of the meetings took place at CANA headquarters in Titusville, Morton stayed at a hotel in Volusia County, honoring CFN's economic boycott of businesses in Brevard County, where the county's anti-nudity ordinance remains in effect.

Upon his arrival in Titusville, NAC's Bob Morton found this community theater immediately across the street from the headquarters of Canaveral National Seashore. He took it as a good sign for the upcoming negotiations. What play was being presented? Click the marquee for a closeup view.

In addition to negotiations held indoors at CANA headquarters at conference tables and desks, CANA Superintendent Bob Newkirk (left) and NAC Chairman Bob Morton conducted a significant portion of their talks at the beach itself.

CANA's Newkirk and NAC's Morton proved to be well matched. Each had an appreciation of the other's circumstances, but each had clear goals to be achieved. Frank discussions took place in the National Seashore office, over meals, in ranger stations and on the beach itself. Hours were spent in sessions that included some of the Seashore's rangers. Chief Ranger Norah Martinez offered special insight that influenced the negotiation.

The negotiators recognized certain limits - the Park Service would not offer designation and the Naturists would not accept a closure order. Newkirk and his staff were reluctant to give up the idea of being able to issue tickets for nudity outside the historic nude area. Morton did not intend to see the criminalization of nudity on federal land documented as official policy in the Canaveral Superintendent's Compendium.

Each item was negotiated carefully and extensively, with consideration of a single word sometimes requiring hours of intense discussion. The negotiation process typically began early in the morning and would sometimes last into the evening hours, altogether consuming most of a week.

Among the items demanding special attention, and their respective outcomes:

  • Closure. There will be no official closure to nudity at Apollo.
     
  • Recognition. Rather than just having a clothing-optional area that exists as an exclusion from a much larger area where nudity is strictly prohibited, the traditional nude beach at Apollo has been officially recognized for its historic clothing-optional use.
     
  • Signage. NAC was successful in getting the Seashore's commitment to post informational signage at the historic clothing optional beach. The standard wording: "Notice: Beyond This Point You May Encounter Nude Sunbathers" was agreed upon.
     
  • Cooperation and shared responsibility. Naturists and the Seashore share the responsibility for making the agreement work through cooperation toward the shared goal of minimizing user conflict. Naturists must voluntarily direct clothing-optional activities toward the traditional clothing-optional area at Apollo Beach south of Crossover #5.
     
  • Enforcement of local ordinances on federal property. NAC was successful in removing verbiage that would have indicated an acceptance by Naturists of county jurisdiction on federal lands. That matter is presently the subject of litigation and in the view of NAC, did not belong in the agreement.

In the end, this was no mere "gentleman's agreement." It was a well-researched, thoroughly hammered-out, legally binding partnership between the Park Service unit and Naturist groups. It was subjected to agency review and scrutiny at the regional and national levels. It was signed by the major national and regional nudist and Naturist organizations.

DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL April 15, 2000
The stock market was down. Naturist stocks rose sharply.

Agreement

On April 14, 2000, Canaveral National Seashore and the Naturist Action Committee issued a joint press release announcing the agreement. The release was careful to point out that no new laws have been established with respect to nudity at Apollo. It was also careful to point out the importance of the voluntary participation by Naturists.

Local newspapers picked up the news. When Bob Morton stopped at a local convenience store the following morning and picked up a cup of coffee and a handful of papers, the clerk asked if he had been mentioned in that day's edition. Morton pointed to the front page headline in the Daytona News-Journal, which said, "Nudists, national park reach accord."

"Well," said the nonplused clerk, "that will never happen."

But it had.

The NAC-negotiated agreement avoided a closure. Additionally, it accomplished official Park Service recognition of the historic nature of nude recreation on a portion of Apollo Beach. It achieved informational signage, and it included Park Service participation in distribution of informational material to Seashore visitors. But it did not relocate the clothing-optional beach from its traditional location, nor did it provide new parking. As a consequence, Central Florida Naturists chose not to sign the agreement.

However, in a prepared statement, CFN President Frank Cervasio said, "Although Central Florida Naturists will not formally endorse the current NPS agreement, Central Florida Naturists will urge naturists to respect and comply with this new NPS policy. Central Florida Naturists will cooperate in the hope that this policy is not final, but represents the beginning of the National Park Service's formal recognition of clothing optional recreation as deserving of official accommodation in Central Florida."

Partnership

The essence of the historic agreement is based on a partnership between Naturists and the Park Service, and it relies on voluntary participation by Naturists. For the agreement to hold, Naturists must stay south of parking lot 5 at Apollo.

Parking at Apollo remains limited, and the nude beach remains popular. NAC recommends that visitors to the historic clothing-optional area plan on arriving early. Some visitors bring a bicycle, parking in Lot #4 and taking a bike ride to Lot #5. You can also park at Lot #4 and hike down the beach, but please do not do so nude! Nudity north of Lot #5 will damage the voluntary partnership between Naturists and the Seashore. Even if the beaches at Crossovers 3 and 4 seem uncrowded and available, that's not the place to be nude.

Canaveral's Bob Newkirk, explaining the situation to a beach visitor, put it well. "It's kind of like a movie theater," he said. When the theater with the movie you want to see is full, you wait - or you go see another movie. You can't expect they'll be able to show your movie in the theater with the less crowded parking lot."

(above) The boardwalk at Apollo's Crossover #5. The notice board includes the official flyer (right) from Supt. Newkirk explaining the agreement between the Seashore and the Naturists and advising visitors that they may encounter nudity south of Parking Lot #5.

Click on the flyer for a complete view of the text in pdf format. NOTE: large file (approximately 443K). Requires Acrobat Reader.

VIEW THE TEXT OF THE AGREEMENT

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The signs and flyers will help, but NAC also asks that Naturist visitors to Apollo spread the word on the beach itself. Local Naturists at Apollo who are interested in being liaisons with the Park Service are encouraged to contact NAC's Bob Morton by telephone at (512) 282-6621, or by e-mail at <ctnudists@aol.com>

What's next for Apollo?

The agreement brokered by the Naturist Action Committee on behalf of nudists and Naturists is significant and historic, but there is more work to be done. Obvious areas for incremental improvement will include additions or enhancements to the parking and restroom facilities in the area that services the clothing-optional beach. A dialog has been opened and a cooperative partnership has been forged to facilitate the consideration of such items.

It will be some time before a final verdict is pronounced on the agreement at Apollo. For his part, Superintendent Newkirk has indicated a willingness to work with Naturists to make the endeavor work. Naturists must be equally aggressive in their support of the effort.

Meanwhile, NAC has been watching those parks that have been watching Canaveral. Guess where NAC will be negotiating next!

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