A city manager is in hot water with children’s advocates for allowing a local nudist group to rent the town’s taxpayer-funded swimming pool for parties that are visible to the public through windows.
Saline, Mich., west of Detroit, began renting its pool facility to the Southeast Michigan Naturists about four years ago after checking with the city attorney, who said the town cannot discriminate against any particular group based on its philosophy.
City Manager Larry Stoever points out there have been no complaints until now, according to the Ann Arbor News. City council members, however, say they have just learned of it and have called on city staff to issue a report before Monday’s council meeting, which will be open to public comment.
“I don’t know of any city-owned facility, paid for with taxpayer money, state and federal grants, that allows swimming naked,” said council member Rick Kuss, the Ann Arbor paper reported.
Kuss said he is particularly concerned about the participation of children, a worry shared by the American Family Association of Michigan, which has initiated a campaign to alert area residents.
The group said in a statement that “because there are no formal membership requirements or screening for these nude pool parties, a convicted child molester could walk into the Saline pool off the street, strip down nude, and watch and associate with naked children – not via a photo, but live and in person!”
“What was Saline’s city manager thinking?!” the Michigan AFA asked.
Come as you are
The naturist group says on its website, hosted on a community site, that nonmembers are allowed to register for the pool parties, held several times a year. The next event is scheduled for Feb. 8.
Stoever argued that the naturists are a private group renting after hours.
“The public is not there,” he said. “When you rent your house for a banquet, they are entitled to the quiet enjoyment of the facility. We rent the facility to industries to have parties, and the facility is closed to the public. No one else is there.”
Kuss argued that the naturist group is violating the pool’s requirement that bathers wear a swimsuit.
“Basically, I just think they should be following the rules,” he told the Saline Reporter newspaper. “Wearing swimwear applies to everyone else and we should stick by it. I don’t feel the policy was followed.”
Stoever insists the city rule does not apply to a private party paying for the exclusive use of the facility. The nudists also have access to the recreation center’s exercise, volleyball and massage facilities during their parties.
Councilwoman Mary Hess insisted, nevertheless, that “when you rent the facility, you also rent the rules.”
“I don’t want children to see [naked] massage and hugging from the outside,” she said. “We’ve got so many children [being] taken advantage of on the Internet. Something is wrong.”
A spokesman for the Southeast Michigan Naturists, Denny Burr, said he was not aware of the controversy and might issue a statement after Monday’s meeting.
The club, which counts about 120 members, describes itself as “an organization of clothing-optional enthusiasts,” with a vision to “achieve a spirit of community, acceptance and happiness in life through naturism.”
The group says its events allow “the fullest participation of all people, regardless of age and economic status, to live their naturist philosophy.”
A Saline citizen wrote to the local newspaper, the Reporter, commending Kuss and Hess for “protecting the best interest of Saline families and children.”
“In my opinion, it is deplorable to allow swimming au naturel by any group (Southeast Michigan Naturists or otherwise) in a public, family-oriented facility with a ‘large window in plain view of any passer-by,'” she wrote. “Would you want to use exercise equipment, etc., after someone’s bare derriere had been exposed to it (think E. coli, strep, AIDS, etc.)?”
One of the pool-party participants wrote to the same paper, suggesting that a drape could be put over the window so passers-by would not be able to see inside.
“We were made with two eyes and a head, all of which swivel, and they can just look the other way and/or stop snooping around a closed-to-the-public event,” he said. “Not exactly rocket science stuff, huh?”