Sunday, September 03, 2006

Banned South of Boston

Aquinnah to crack down on nude beachgoers

Clothing no longer optional in Aquinnah.

August 31, 2006

An informal policy of don't look, don't fine is about to end under the Gay Head Cliffs. Aquinnah police will no longer look the other way at beachgoers who violate a town rule by sunbathing in the buff.

Aquinnah officials expect to erect newly ordered signs soon at the entrance to town beaches. The signs will announce the selectmen's intention to enforce a longstanding bylaw that prohibits public nudity. Violators will face a fine of as much as $50, less than the cost of a designer bathing suit.

The town-owned beach is adjacent to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank's Moshup Beach. For years, the informality of town affairs in Aquinnah, formerly known as Gay Head, extended to the water line along the magnificent stretch of sand that wraps around the multi-hued cliffs at the westernmost end of the Island. Beachgoers, influenced by the relative seclusion and laissez faire atmosphere, felt free to take their clothes off.

But times have changed, Aquinnah Police Chief Rhandi Belain said this week. Incidences of what he described as inappropriate behavior have increased in number, as have complaints from the public. Together, they led the chief to raise the issue of illegal public nudity with the selectmen.

At a selectmen's meeting on July 20, under the agenda item public lewdness, selectmen agreed with Chief Belain that the time has come to begin enforcing the town bylaw before the problem becomes more serious. The board agreed to order three signs.

The durable aluminum signs declare: Aquinnah bylaws prohibit public nudity. $50 fine per violation per order of the board of selectmen.

Chief Belain told The Times that, contrary to what people might think, it is not a nude beach. "It's time," said Mr. Belain, son of the former Gay Head police chief. "Things are not what they used to be."

Public nudity has not been an issue at the staffed Land Bank beach, said James Lengyel, Land Bank executive director. He said nudity is prohibited.

"We haven't changed our policy," Mr. Lengyel said. "This is a family beach."


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