Nudity on Fire Island.

Nudity on Fire Island.

Then to now…

The ancient Egyptians wore the minimum of clothing, and in a number of ancient Mediterranean cultures, the athletic and/or cultist nudity of men and boys was a natural concept. In ancient Rome, nudity could be a public disgrace and might be offensive or distasteful even in traditional settings, though it could be seen at the public baths or in erotic art. In Japan, public nudity was quite normal and commonplace until the Meiji Restoration. In Europe, taboos against nudity began to grow during the Age of Enlightenment and by the Victorian era, public nakedness was considered obscene. In the early years of the 20th century, the modern naturist movement began to develop.

Fire Island and nudity have a long history together. Always a safe haven for the naturist, it offered just the right amount of privacy and a unique natural setting . In the Fire Island Pines early beginnings as Lone Hill it drew a bohemian population that took part in nudism.

Even celebrities such as writer Tennessee Williams enjoyed the freedom.

As the 1960’s ended the 1970’s arrived with the sexual revolution. With that the freedom of nudity became the new norm in the Pines.

Public nudity is illegal within the state of New York, and within the Town of lslip. New York State Penal Code§ 245.01 prohibits public nudity. Nudity has been a long-standing recreational beach activity at Fire Island National Seashore, a park area that shares concurrent jurisdiction with the State of New York. Despite the fact that public nudity was prohibited by New York State law in 1984, park management has not supported the enforcement of this law since then.

In recent years, park employees and partners have observed a substantial increase in clothing-optional recreation, particularly at Lighthouse beach, where two of the park’s three designated “clothing optional beaches” occur. In addition, park staff has observed an increase in the amount of lewd, lascivious, and voyeuristic behavior, as well as an increase in suspected prostitution, drug use, and assaults. This beach also provides high-quality habitat for several threatened and endangered species of plants and wildlife, which have been disturbed by the density of human activity in the area. National Park Service (NPS) policies favor consistent enforcement of state laws on federal lands, and disfavor the designation of clothing optional areas. The park has received criticism of the magnitude and density of nude behavior so close to the historic Fire Island Lighthouse, a feature visited regularly by school groups and the visiting public, many of whom are not attuned to nudity. Approximately 50% of park-wide visitation occurs at this western end of the park, including the Lighthouse, Lighthouse beach (both clothing optional and clothing required areas), and through these federal lands to the western communities. New York State prohibited public nudity in 1984, but the federally operated parks department on Fire Island opted not to enforce those laws. 

  • Lighthouse Beach
  • Fire Island Pines Beach
  • Cherry Grove Beach
  • Davis Park
  • Smith Point

On July 25, 2010, a law enforcement ranger was patrolling the clothing optional area of Lighthouse beach when he observed a naked adult man masturbating. When the ranger contacted the suspect, the suspect replied, “I thought it was OK on a nude beach.” The suspect was issued a citation.

As you know, in 2013 Fire Island National Seashore has been in compliance with the New York State Nudity Law. Since then our approach has been to adapt, educate, and enforce this law fairly and consistently across the island on National Seashore property. The signs you saw are a part of our visitor contact and education approach and applies only to the Carrington Tract federal property. There have been identical signs both at Lighthouse Beach and west of Smith Point.
Although nudity on the beaches of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines is in violation of the New York State law, U.S. Park Rangers will only educate and enforce this policy on federal property. They will not enforce it in front of any of the communities.   

Since 2013 there has not been much in the way of enforcing any nudity laws in both the Pines and the Grove. So the tradition continues…

A brief history of nudity and naturism.


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