Palm Beach County tourism officials on Thursday rejected a proposal to open a nude beach in an oceanfront park near Boynton Beach, saying the area is a family-friendly destination for both local residents and out-of-town visitors.
The county’s Tourist Development Council recommended against a push to make clothing optional along a section of beach at the north end of Gulfstream Park, a 7-acre area owned by the county and sandwiched between the coastal towns of Briny Breezes and Gulf Stream and the cities of Boynton Beach and Delray Beach. The recommendation will be sent to county commissioners, who will ultimately decide the fate of the proposal.
The Palm Beach County Freedom Beach Initiative, a grass-roots group led by county resident Karl Dickey, approached county officials last month about creating a clothing optional beach at the park.
Dickey has said the change would drive tourism and generate revenue for the county and surrounding cities. There are no nude beaches in the county.
But members of the tourism board questioned the economic benefit. Gulfstream Park has just over 90 parking spaces, and those spots are typically full by 8 a.m. most mornings, tourism officials said.
“The only justification for doing it is the economic impact, and I don’t think there is any economic impact that we are going to benefit from, especially with a 97-spot parking lot that is full all of the time,” said Don Dufresne, a member of the tourist council.
County Mayor Paulette Burdick, who serves on the tourism board, said the park is a family-friendly spot. In addition to a guarded beach, it also features playground areas for children between the ages of 2 and 12, county officials said.
“The families in the area, they would have access, but they would not see that as a family-friendly beach to go to,” Burdick said of the proposal.
Dickey, who did not attend Thursday’s tourism board meeting, said he was not aware the council planned to discuss the proposal. Despite the board’s recommendation, Dickey said the group will continue to push for a clothing-optional beach in Palm Beach County.
The group has identified 7 other beaches where clothing could be optional, including sites owned by municipalities and stretch of coastline in MacArthur State Park.
“We are going to move forward,” Dickey said. “This doesn’t thwart us in any way.”
Dickey said the idea that a clothing optional beach is not family-friendly is a “misnomer.”
“From an economic standpoint and from a family standpoint it is a positive,” Dickey said. “This idea that we are not looking to do a family-friendly beach is a myth.”
Dickey said the group plans to continue to “educate the public” on the benefits of clothing optional beaches. He pointed to Haulover Beach in Miami-Dade County, which he says has been both a tourism draw and a revenue generator for the county.
In his proposal, Dickey pointed to a 2012 report issued by the Beaches Foundation Institute, which found that parking revenue at Haulover Beach increased by 120 percent in the three-year period after the clothing became optional in 1991. Farther south at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne, parking revenue increased by 6 percent during the same timeframe.
Dufresne, however, questioned how much of that boost was a result of clothing being optional at Haulover Beach. Beaches in nearby Key Biscayne are only accessible by toll roads, and the property was hit hard by Hurricane Andrew in 1992, he added.
“I don’t think the numbers are reflective of the nakedness of Haulover Beach as much as it is about having to pay a toll to get on Key Biscayne,” Dufresne said. “I question the numbers and I question the economic impact we would get from it on any of our beaches.”
The tourism board stopped short of ruling out nude beaches at other locations, but members said they wouldn’t support spending money on a study weighing the economic impact a nude beach might have in the county.