SEATTLE - When it comes to public nudity, Seattle may be the most liberal city in the country, but a number of organized, naked bike rides prompted the parks department to reconsider nudity on beaches and city parks.
But Thursday night, the city's parks board refused to ban non-offensive public nudity despite some complaints from the public.
Nude events will therefore likely continue in the future, although perhaps under tighter scrutiny.
The parks board decided that to limit nudists would be to single them out. If nudists follow the rules, they can continue to use the parks.
Naked bike rides are a Seattle tradition. In Seattle it's illegal to flash someone, but perfectly legal to run around nude and police officers take action only if a nudist is lewd or obscene.
"The bare facts of the law are that if you knowingly show yourself naked with the intent to alarm and offend people that's illegal, said Sergeant Sean Whitcom, of the Seattle Police Department. "Just being nude is not against the law."
The city issues permits for a variety of naked events.
"We've issued permits for picnics, for indoor pool rentals and for bike rides," spokesperson Joelle Ligon said.
It's a touchy topic. The police chief even wrote a letter explaining to citizens that his officers can intervene only if a nudist engages in conduct that's likely to cause reasonable affront or alarm.
That line was apparently crossed in July when motorists got an eyeful of nude cyclists hanging out at Dexter and Mercer. And Seattle Center visitors saw others skinny dipping in the Seattle Center fountain.
One family holding a birthday party for a 9-year-old says the boys were suddenly surrounded by middle-aged men wearing nothing but their birthday suits.
The ban would only apply to nudity in parks and beaches. People could still book public pools after hours for nude swims, and naked bike rides would be allowed as long as people keep moving and don't stop or hold picnics in the parks.
The parks board agreed to closely monitor the permitting process and said in the future it may consider establishing a clothing-optional beach.