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Vancouver’s nude beach users decry removal of ‘privacy’ logs

Longtime Vancouver Wreck Beach goers are upset that measures taken to improve safety and access at one of North America’s largest clothing-optional beaches are contributing to a rise in voyeurism and ruining the place.

Longtime Wreck Beach goers want input over management measures they say threatens site

A man and woman in a composite photo showing them from the chest up with no clothes on.

Longtime Vancouver Wreck Beach goers are upset that measures meant to improve safety and access at one of North America's largest clothing-optional beaches are contributing to a rise in voyeurism and ruining the place.

One is the removal of large logs on the beach, which "provided essential barriers against wind, sun, and unwanted onlookers," according to an online petition calling for the regional government and Metro Vancouver to better manage the site.

Longtime users like Mary Jean Dunson say Metro Vancouver's changes at the beach in the interest of safety are an overreach.

"I don't want to come to Wreck Beach and feel like I'm a child at their daycare, cause I'm not," she said about Metro Vancouver's management of the site known for its long waterfront, natural beauty and seclusion.

The conflict illustrates the challenges of balancing the governance of a public space that, for years, has largely been user-managed.

According to Metro Vancouver, an increase in visits at Wreck Beach has led to the need to improve access for issues such as medical emergencies.

"We absolutely want to preserve that unique social character, but at the same time, we need to be responsible in how we're managing the beach," said Paul Brar, a division manager with Metro Vancouver.

Metro Vancouver began managing Wreck Beach in 1989. The beach is located below the UBC campus as part of the Pacific Spirit Regional Park.

It said in a recent report visits to Wreck Beach have increased by 20 per cent over the past five years, reaching 870,000 in 2023.

The sheer number of people resulted in a rise in calls for emergency responses over, most notably, medical emergencies, including those related to heat, according to the report.

Metro Vancouver said four agencies, the RCMP, Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services (VFRS), the B.C. Ambulance Service and the Canadian Coast Guard combine to respond to emergencies at Wreck Beach, which can only be accessed via the ocean or a long, steep 500-step climb down and back up.

Brar says feedback from the agencies led to changes. An annual cleanup of logs washed ashore during the winter led to those left being put in an orderly grid to improve site lines and easy access up and down the beach.

"We took the advisement of the responders, and we think it's a good decision," he said.

The cleanup removed 500 logs and left more than 200. Brar said part of managing logs at the site is preventing them from being used to make structures, like platforms.

He also said the grid, similar to log setups at other Vancouver beaches, makes the beach more welcoming to all kinds of users. Regulars often arrange logs how they see fit.

"They were creating almost territories, so there were some people who felt excluded from certain areas of the beach," said Brar.

'I am not the Eiffel Tower'

But beach users like the chair of the Wreck Beach Preservation Society say Metro Vancouver's management of the logs has resulted in less privacy on the beach, exacerbating the problem of gawkers.

"We are seeing a large influx of folks coming in that have no interest in getting naked or enjoying the beach," said Stephen Biduk. "They're just coming down to look at people, to look at naked bodies, and that's becoming a bigger concern."

"I know that Wreck Beach is a tourist destination, but I am not a tourist attraction," said Dunson. "I am not the Eiffel Tower."

The society and the petition are calling for bigger logs to be returned. The group also wants a greater role in finding ways to keep the beach safe, ensure privacy and preserve the site's unique character.

"We really are the feet on the ground and know what's going on, who's doing what and if there are any overriding issues," said Biduk. "So we think our input is valuable for [Metro Vancouver] in order to manage the beach."

Brar said staff and patrollers speak with new users about expected behaviour, such as not staring or taking photographs.


Chad Pawson is a CBC News reporter in Vancouver. Please contact him at chad.pawson@cbc.ca.

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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