(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)
They just want, they say, what every beachgoer wants: to enjoy the sun, the sand, the water.
And to get a really good tan.
Pinellas County said no in 1999, but Tampa Area Naturists are trying again: they want part of Fort De Soto Park labeled a "clothing optional" beach.
"I've always been a sun worshiper," said Jamy Magro, a St. Petersburg lawyer who is president of the group, which is called, yes, TAN for short.
"I enjoy that feeling of being out there, jumping in the water and being at one with nature."
The group is set to talk to the county's park board next month. That board would recommend to commissioners whether to allow a nude beach in a less-used section of the park.
Which most commissioners say they won't do.
"Absolutely not. Nada. No way," said Commissioner John Morroni.
Just last month, the commission vetoed a radio station's proposal to raise money for breast cancer by stringing bras across the Friendship Trail Bridge.
As far as commissioners are concerned, that plan was better. At least it involved clothing.
"The board voted down Bras Across the Bay, so I don't think we're going to vote for a nude beach," said Commissioner Ken Welch.
TAN is trying hard. They've put together a booklet with charts, maps and color photos. (No, the photos don't show much.) They've got a catchy slogan, "nude is not lewd," to emphasize that they support sunning au naturel, not sex on the beach.
They've estimated the dollars disrobing could bring: $750,000 to $1.5-million if there were an admission charge for the clothing optional beach. That's not counting $25-to $85-million that tourists visiting the park would spend in Pinellas per year, said Gulfport resident Dick Korf, TAN spokesman.
Right now those tourists, especially from Europe, are more likely to visit Miami, where Haulover Beach allows nudity, Korf said. And more tourist money is especially needed since Sept. 11.
But Commissioner Calvin Harris said he went to a European travel show on behalf of the county, and "not a single person asked if Pinellas County had a clothing optional beach."
TAN also has survey research. Those polled supported nude sunbathing at a beach "accepted for that purpose," and were evenly split on whether government should set aside public land.
"I just don't think our community is in favor of us using public land for a limited use," said Commissioner Karen Seel.
Naturists are just another special interest group, Korf and Magro argue, like people who want dog parks and boat ramps.
But why not just sunbathe nude on private land?
"Between being nude in beautiful Fort De Soto beach and sitting around a pool in downtown Lutz," Magro replied, "where would you rather be?"