Petition pushes Tybee Beach nudity

Editorial page cartoon in the Savannah Morning News

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A Savannah man has started an online petition to designate a quarter-mile of Tybee Island’s beach as clothing optional.


In the letter, addressed to Tybee Mayor Jason Buelterman, Savannah resident Shawn Williams writes: “The practice of nudism is purposely nonsexual. It serves as a personal comfort and a stronger sense of freedom. There is the belief that nudism helps with self-esteem, relaxation, and overall well-being.”

As of late Thursday, more than 250 people had signed the petition.

Each time a person signs it, Buelterman gets an email.

“This is the first time I’ve heard this suggestion in a serious way,” he said.

He doesn’t seem too keen on the proposal.

“My take on it would be that I certainly appreciate people taking an interest in Tybee and our beach, but we’re a family beach, and it’s not something we’re considering.”

Williams, 22, who describes himself as a naturist, said the idea came to him when he realized how far he’d have to travel to get to a nude beach — something he’s never experienced.

“I do not think the residents of the area are ready for such a change,” he said via email. “However, I feel this change is needed. There are virtually no nude beaches in America.”

Buelterman said he’s alerted the rest of Tybee Island City Council because any such decision would require a vote.

Currently, though, it doesn’t look as if Tybee’s too hot for the idea of letting beachgoers rock their birthday suits on the sand.

City Councilman Paul Wolff said having a nude section of the beach wouldn’t work well with Tybee’s image as a family friendly vacation destination.

“While I’m personally all for nudity, I don’t think it fits into our tourism agenda,” Wolff said.

Williams said he tried to get a petition going last year, but it didn’t get far. Then he saw a petition to allow a part of Jacksonville Beach, Fla., to become clothing optional, and that renewed his drive.

Williams said he’s received mild positive feedback, and he expects some criticism.

“My response to negative feedback would be that they would not be required to visit the nude portion of the beach if they do not wish to as it will only be 1/4 of a mile,” Williams said.

If a section of Tybee’s beach were to be OK’d for nudity, Williams said, there’d be signs warning other visitors of impending nakedness.

At the moment, obviously, it’s against the law to be naked on the beach.

“You can’t have a fire on the beach, and you can’t a have a beer keg on the beach or anything like that,” Buelterman said. “We do require you to be wearing clothing.”

Tybee Police Chief Bob Bryson said officers patrolling the beach occasionally run into people who are in the nude.

“It’s infrequent, but it happens,” he said.

In those cases, police generally cite the naked people or charge them with public indecency, depending on circumstances, he said.

However, he mentioned, during beach season, people often walk around the island wearing skimpy attire, and that holds true especially out on the sand.

“People are pretty much just about naked out there, anyway,” he said.



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