Beachgoers react to new rules at nudists' shore
DNR limits use of clothing-optional beach to weekends only
If there was any day so far this spring to hit the beach, it was without a doubt Sunday. With temperatures soaring into the 70s, it was even warm enough to take a dip.
For those who prefer the clothing-optional atmosphere at Mazo Beach -- the state's only legal public nude beach -- it's was a happy coincidence that the nice weather fell on the weekend. New rules handed down by the Department of Natural Resources ban use of the beach during the week.
Michael McGreevy moved to the area about a decade ago just to be closer to the beach. He said he's never witnessed illicit activities going on near the shore of the Wisconsin River, and the decision to shut down the park from Monday through Friday was made too suddenly.
"I thought it was a little bit knee-jerk, a little bit drastic," McGreevy said, "and unfortunately, the actions of a few affect us all. And the impact on the holidays and the financial situation in the area is going to be greater than they anticipated."
McGreevy added the beach brings business to the area.
"People come here for vacations. They spend long weekends here. They've made fast friends here that they visit all times of the year," McGreevy explained. "You know, it has a great financial impact on the area, as well as a rare jewel that we try to protect."
Under the new rules, the beach is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. The regulations apply from March 1 to Sept. 15 each year. The ban also applies to surrounding wooded areas, and anyone not adhering to the limitations can be cited.
The DNR decided in March to close the beach during the week after records showed more arrests happened there on those days. According to those numbers, 42 people were arrested for illicit sex or drug possession over the course of just nine days in 2011. That was up from 14 arrests in 2007.
Conservation warden Nathan Kroeplin said there was nothing left to do.
"Every single year, every step that we've taken, hasn't worked," Kroeplin said.
Kroeplin said the new restrictions have gotten mixed reviews from people.
"It's unfortunate that we had to take those steps to close the beach down," Kroeplin said, "but our ultimate goal is to make it a place where everybody can feel comfortable going."
McGreevy disagreed, saying that being comfortable is what the beach is all about.
"We do what we do out in the open because there's nothing we do that we want to conceal or hide," McGreevy said.
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