Wisconsin Nude Beach Has Sex Problem

PHOTO: The Badger Naturists summer home at Mazo Beach.
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A stretch of property along the Wisconsin River that has become a de facto nude beach is trying to quash its reputation as a gathering place of those looking to have more than a PG-rated good time.

Wardens with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are cracking down on what they say has been a growing problem of people sneaking away from the nude beach and into the woods for trysts or to take drugs, exposing "lewd and lascivious" behavior to passing boaters and recreationalists.

"Over the past 10, 15, 20 years, increasingly there has been more drug use, overt sexual acts, involving couples, groups, individuals, conducting basically lewd and lascivious disorderly conduct," said Mark Aquino, regional director for the department. "So we've had complaints from people coming down the river canoeing, people birding or pursuing other recreational pursuits, who come across people involved in overt sexual activity."

Many of the naturist groups that frequent the area say that the people sneaking off for a quickie in the woods are not their members, but gawkers who show up at the well-known nude spot for more mischievous purposes.

"Naturists aren't normally the ones that go off to the woods and enjoy a dalliance. There's not a whole lot we can do about gawkers and people that cruise down there to have sex," said Nicky Hoffman Lee, managing director of The Naturist Society, based in Oshkosh, Wis.

Ruth Bender, who owns property near the beach, told the Associated Press that she had been subjected to many displays of unlawful behavior.

"They were having sex right on the islands, the sandbars when the river was lower," she said. "People can't understand something like that is going on. That's a nice section of the river. I don't know what fun they get out of that."

The wardens with the department are closing off access to more than 60 acres of natural woodland adjacent to the beach in order to deter people from sneaking out of public view for bad behavior.

"If we take that area away from public access, it forces people into the open, where they may be less willing to engage in those behaviors," Aquino said.

Hoffman Lee said that the increase in attention to the problem is a welcome change.

"We're glad the rangers are there," she said. "We call them if we see people with loose dogs on the beach and if we see people go off into the woods and mess around. We want it to be a nice safe place as well."

The beach has been a nudist gathering place for decades, Aquino noted, and the various naturist groups have worked well with law enforcement authorities. The district attorney does not prosecute nude sunbathers who use the beach, although it is not officially designated as a beach for naturists.

As word has spread about "Mazo Beach," named for the nearby town of Mazomanie, to naturists and those interested in gawking at them, visitors from as far away as Florida have shown up to see the sights. With the rise in visitors, law enforcement has seen a rise in disorderly behavior, including drug use and sexual acts.

Department of Natural Resource agents spent six days at Mazo Beach in 2010 and made 16 arrests for unlawful behavior, Aquino said. They sent agents to the beach nine times last year, and made 64 arrests.

Aquino said the department cannot afford to have its agents spend more time at the beach, especially on weekends, but hopes that closing access to the trouble spots will help deter the behavior.

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