The (Controversial) St. John Beach Guide Part One: Nudity

The Original St. John Beach Guide
The Original St. John Beach Guide

First Edition St. John Beach Guide
The first edition of The St. John Beach Guide written by (the self proclaimed) “the world’s foremost authority on St. John’s beaches,” me, Gerald Singer and illustrated by my good friend and well known St. John artist, Les Anderson was published in 1994.

The St. John Beach Guide was a cute, informal little book that gave directions and descriptions and commented upon “all the beaches on St. John.” I believe I counted 52 of them.

Action Notes
The book even had what I called “action notes,” which were suggestions for beach workouts and athletic challenges. For example, the “Action Note” for Klein Bay was, “Swim along the shoreline from Klein Bay to the sandy beach at Ditleff Bay. The world’s record is 13:30. (Actually set by Jen Cambell who set all kinds of personal records and who beat me in a race up the Reef Bay Trail, and I did say “up,” and, did I mention that she was carrying her young son in a backpack, and that I was determined not to let her beat me. Well, as my friend, Foxy, says, “Such is Life.”)

The one thing I never suspected, though, was that The St. John Beach Guide would be controversial. But it turned out to be, so much so that it was banned by the Virgin Islands National Park.

How did this happen?

Beach Guide Banned by National Park
There were two issues, and neither one of them had to do with the text, the controversy centered around two of Les Anderson’s illustrations. Now those of you who know Les are probably thinking, “sexy ladies sans clothing.” Close, but no cigar.

First, some background. For many years, the beach at Salomon Bay was informally proclaimed a “nude beach,” and that it became. Because, I imagine, of its relative inaccessibility and the fact that there are plenty of other beach choices that those offended by nudity might choose and possibly because there were no federal statutes prohibiting nudity, the clothing optional status of Salomon Beach was tolerated.

Enforcement of Territorial Anti-Nudity Laws
Enforcement of Territorial Anti-Nudity Laws

But beginning around the time of the writing of The St. John Beach Guide, the Virgin Islands National Park started to step up their enforcement of Virgin Islands territorial laws prohibiting nudity.

Promoting Nudity?
Promoting Nudity?

In writing a guide to the beaches of St. John, I needed to decide how I was going to treat the issue of nudity. Before going on, I consulted with Chief Ranger, Harry Daniel, who was in charge of law enforcement for the National Park. He told me that he would prefer that I didn’t mention nudity at all. And I didn’t. I did, however, mention that “the world record running from Salomon Beach to the parking lot is one minute and 42 seconds.”

Unfortunately, the Les Anderson illustration that appeared following the Salomon Bay chapter was viewed by park officials as “promoting nudity.”

The result was the banning of The St. John Beach Guide in the National Park. (Note: The misunderstandings have been straightened out and both subsequent editions of The St. John Beach Guide are available and for sale at the Virgin Islands National Park Visitors Center.

Stay tuned to learn what was the second controversial illustration…

Update me when site is updated

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