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Salt Lake City Weekly The Two Halves of "Bare Bum Beach"

By Ben Fulton

AUGUST 4, 1997:  When nature calls, nature calls. "Sam," as he shall be known, was walking about the northeast shoreline of the Great Salt Lake in shorts and thongs when he had to urinate. Two minutes after he pulled his shorts back up he was in handcuffs.

So were 33 others arrested for misdemeanor ludeness almost two weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon. It was quite a haul for the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Deputies who orchestrated the raid. The strip of shoreline, known as "Bare Bum Beach" or "Exit 111," has been a magnet for nudists for years. The recent arrests, though, have sparked the ire of people who say their activities are harmless at best, insipid at worst.

"I'd like to know where they [sheriff's deputies] took a leak when they were out here all day," says Sam, who requested anonymity. "There's lewdness out here, but it all depends on what's lewd to you."

Lafe Case, a retired trucking supervisor, who's frequented this side of the lake for some 30 years, is upset that recent media reports have pigeonholed the area as nothing but a sordid pick-up spot for gays.

"The only thing they're telling the public is what they want the public to know," said Case, who saw the raid take place but was not arrested. He enjoys the area clothed, preferably with a book, and has helped many beach roamers pull their cars out of the mud with a tow attached to his truck.

"There are heterosexuals as well as homosexuals out here. But more than that, people just come out here to relax in the sun and solitude. People fly kites, ride bikes and fly miniature planes out here."

Indeed, even on a Wednesday afternoon with overcast clouds, you can find a solitary walker, or one man reading in the passenger seat of his parked car, door open. Those who know each other call out with nicknames over this vast expanse of flat beach dotted with pools of salt water.

"It's very compatible. You don't see arguments between different people," Case continued. "Yet it is a very clean beach for all those who use it. Do you find your park and recreation areas this clean?"

He admits that from time to time there's some "funny stuff happening," though. So does law enforcement, or they wouldn't have sent five unmarked cars out to the four-mile long beach. It's practically a two-year ritual, brought on whenever spectators — usually tourists at the nearby Salt Air public park — complain about what they see from a distance. If anything, the recent arrests help define the right place and time to bare your derriere.

Life's a beach: "People just come out here to relax in the sun and solitude," says Lafe Case.
According to Andrew McCullough, attorney for Utah Naturists, Inc., if people take sufficient lengths to be sure they're away from the public eye when disrobing, all's fine. And if "textiles," that is clothed people, come within sight, be courteous enough to cover up.

It's as simple as that, really, if you want to be a naturist or nudist. There have been instances, however, when law enforcement has gone the extra mile to find naturists. More than a year ago, a pair of officers hiked two miles to Diamond Fork Hot Springs late one evening where they arrested several nude bathers.

"That's not legitimate law enforcement in my opinion," McCullough said. "If officers do that they're wasting everyone's time and money."

While not fully aware of all the circumstances surrounding the "Bare Bum Beach" raid, McCullough doesn't rule out looking into it at some point. "We'll put the police to the test and see if they're protecting society or just being a nuisance."

For his part, Salt Lake County Sheriff's Deputy Rod Norton appreciates any effort nudists may make to stay out of public view. But the July 19 operation dealt with people who could be seen from the highway, he explained. There were some unsavory aspects as well, such as sexual activity.

"I hate to have to accentuate that, but that's reality," said Norton, almost blushing through the phone.

Case, however, maintains there was no beach-side sex that he noticed the day of the bust. "There wasn't anything like that carrying on while I was there," he said. "That kind of stuff only happens once in a while, usually while very few people are out there."

Even without the naughty bits, though, the raid was conducted within the law, not to mention the confines of good taste, Norton said. "Some may say it's just nudity, but it's still a violation of law and within our purview to enforce the law."

Naturists have tried in the past to walk the beach without being seen, according to Case. They built a small bridge over the area's more muddy expanses to get farther out to shore away from sight, but expanded water covered it up over the years.

In fact, one advantage beach regulars have over law enforcement is that they know the area's hazards well. During the raid, one sheriff's deputy in hot pursuit of a lewd offender peeled across a watery pool in his vehicle, only to find himself stuck 3-feet-deep in mud.

"I just laughed like hell, it was a zoo," Case said. "That tied up operations for about an hour. All the cops came to help him get out. Everyone else just laughed like hell."

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