Mounties are treading carefully after being called on to investigate complaints about public nudity at Three Mile Beach.
People who prefer to tan in their birthday suits had for decades used a secluded portion of private land next to the public beach there, but were chased away in early June by the owner, who is trying to sell the property.
Now they’ve moved over to the public beach and generated concerns that some area residents have raised with Penticton Mayor Garry Litke and the RCMP.
“They’re very concerned about not being able to take their children and grandchildren down to the public beach without being intimidated — That’s not their word, it’s mine; theirs were stronger — by naked people,” Litke said.
He’s also worried the beach is getting a reputation “for more than just nudity, if I can put it that way.”
Litke said he “absolutely” shares residents’ concerns, but believes the matter is one for police to handle, since public nudity is a Criminal Code offence.
Penticton RCMP spokesman Sgt. Rick Dellebuur confirmed the detachment has received complaints, but said the law around public nudity isn’t exactly clear, since it has evolved to permit things like exotic dancing.
He also noted that nudity charges require the attorney general’s consent, so police are checking with Crown counsel to determine if there is even an appetite to go after the Three Mile sunbathers criminally or to instead seek some other resolution.
“If people are assaulting people or doing other acts that are indecent, that’s a different matter, but what we’re getting reports of now is basically nude swimmers on the beach,” Dellebuur said.
“So we’re trying to certainly address the concerns, but figure out the best way to do that.”
Dennis Roszell, who owns a home on Three Mile Road, said that’s not good enough.
“If the RCMP are saying that the law has changed so now this is OK, then (nudists) can also do this right in front of City Hall,” he said.
Roszell added that he has seen sex acts on the nude beach, where his young grandchildren have been inadvertently exposed to naked adults.
“Their parents are reluctant to take them to that beach anymore because of the lewd behaviour and the nudity,” he continued.
“It’s illegal, and when they’re chasing the public away because of the lewd behaviour, it’s my opinion that the RCMP should step in and make the arrests necessary.”
Curtis Hamilton, who was one of about a dozen people at the clothing-optional beach Wednesday, was unaware of any lewd acts at the spot, but said anyone offended by naked bodies is free to go elsewhere.
“There are lots of beaches around. We’ve only got one little corner of the world here, and I really don’t think it’s an infringement on anybody,” he said.
Hamilton visits the beach several times each summer and said he has yet to be approached by a parent concerned about his nudity, and would probably cover up if requested to do so.
“If they ask, sure,” he said, “because that’s the way we are.”