Town Let's Nature Deal with Nudity

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) -- Mother Nature, not an ordinance, will draw the covers over public nudity in Brattleboro.

The town's Select Board decided Tuesday to take no action on an anti-nudity ordinance that was introduced in response to a clothing-optional movement launched by local teenagers this summer.

"Winter is coming. If spring comes and we still have a problem, we'll take another look at it,'' said Select Board Chairman Steve Steidle.

Vermont has no state law against public nudity, though at least eight communities have banned it locally.

Brattleboro, however, has long had a live-and-let-live culture. Its 12,000 residents have seen clothing-optional swimming holes, streakers, and even an event known as "Breast Fest,'' with women parading topless.

But the public nature of the latest movement -- naked teens smack in the heart of downtown -- raised eyebrows.

The stripping apparently started in early summer when a young woman sat naked on a park bench, said Police Chief John Martin. Then another woman took her shirt off downtown, a music festival inspired nude hula hoopers in a downtown parking lot, and in August a half dozen young people bared their bodies in a parking lot encircled by the backs of bookstores, coffee shops and restaurants.

One of the nudists, 19-year-old Adhi Palar, told the town board the issue was freedom.

"Our acting in nudity is an act of celebration of this history and traditional values as a place where you're allowed to be nude,'' he said. "I find that important, and I find that proud.''

Not everyone agreed.

"I just think it's anarchy, because they won,'' said resident Theresa Toney, whose complaint about the public nudity prompted the debate. "It's inappropriate behavior for downtown. It has nothing to do with the weather. There's good behavior and there's bad behavior and that's bad behavior.''

Town Manager Jerry Remillard said the town's image was tarnished by the uproar.

"We have been the brunt of phone calls from all over the world,'' Remillard said. "The media made this into nothing less than a circus.''

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