Last updated: February 21st, 2023
The first edition of The St. John Beach Guide was written by the self-proclaimed “world’s foremost authority on St. John’s beaches,” me, Gerald Singer. It was illustrated by my good friend and well-known St. John artist Les Anderson and 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.
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 that it was banned by the Virgin Islands National Park, and it all happened due to the U.S Virgin Islands taking a strong stance on nude beaches in St John.
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.
First, some background. For many years, the Salomon Bay Beach was informally proclaimed a nude beach, and it became the only nude beach in the U.S Virgin Islands. 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. Also, because there were no federal statutes prohibiting nudity, the clothing-optional status of Salomon Beach was tolerated.
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.
For those who can’t see it clearly, the first newspaper article reads, “Virgin Islands National Park rangers are enforcing the V.I. anti-nudity law. An individual was cited for indecency at Salomon Beach in December and was fined in District Court In April. Law enforcement rangers will continue to enforce both federal and local status that ban nudity at National Park Beaches.”
The second article that came out 7 days later reads, “A Recent Federal Court decision supported the V.i National Park enforcement of the territory’s anti-nudity laws.
A St John resident cited for indecency at Salomon Beach in December 1996 was fined during a mandatory appearance in U.S District Court in April 1997, V.I.N.P officials said.
Park management does not support nudity within park boundaries, and V.I.N.P Law Enforcement Rangers will continue to enforce both Federal and Territorial status, according to the park services.
Nudity at Salomon Beach within V.I. National Park has increased, causing outrage from many local residents and visitors, the press release said.”
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, among another illustration of a lady laying down by the beach.
This was the drawing. She had apparently taken off the top of her bikini, and as she raises (back turned) from her beach blanket, she sees a pelican flying off with the top half of her swimsuit.
Possibly, because nudity at Salomon Bay had been a recent issue, someone took a hard line and found the whimsical illustration to be “promoting nudity.”
The result was the banning of The St. John Beach Guide in the Virgin Islands National Park and a strong case that nudity in Salomon Beach would no longer be ignored.
(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.