The naked truth is if you want to slip off your clothes and soak at the Diamond Fork Springs in Utah County, be prepared to add a lewdness citation to your wardrobe when you leave.
Even though the U.S. Forest Service has a sign advising its ambivalence over nudity and a warning of "discretion" for would-be bathers, eight adults were issued citations for the offense on an October evening just before midnight.
Six in the group were firefighters employed with the U.S. Forest Service when they were confronted by Utah County sheriff's deputies who had made the two-mile trek to the springs. The springs are located in a national forest.
The encounter is explained in detail in a Catalyst magazine story this month. The incident prompted a flurry of protests from naturists who say deputies pushed the issue because half of the bathers were women.
"I had to decide how to get out of my watery haven safely and somewhat modestly," wrote Katherine Pioli in the article. "I addressed the men in front of — and behind — me. 'Could you turn around?' I asked them. 'Or turn off your flashlights so I can get out and put a towel around me? I won't run,' I promised. To his credit, whichever of the five he was, one flashlight blinked off. The other four remained pointed at our group."
Utah County Sherriff's Lt. Yvette Rice said the department stands by the actions of its deputies and the citations at Diamond Fork, where they say they have had repeated reports of criminal activity, including sexual assaults, underage consumption of alcohol, and drug use.
The U.S. Forest Service, she added, may not care about nude soakers, but the sheriff's office will enforce anti-lewdness laws.
"It may not be their intent to offend people or bother people, but the point is, it is against the law. We have had multiple complaints from Scout groups, from other citizens who have come upon it and been offended," Rice said.
Lorraine Januzelli, a spokeswoman with the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, said there has been a sign posted near the springs advising bathers to be mindful of families. The sign also indicates nudity at the springs is not against the law.
While public prohibitions against nudity have been the rule in the Wasatch and Cache national forests for years, it hasn't been addressed in the Uinta forest, where Diamond Springs is located.
That appears to be changing now.
"We are going to be taking down the sign because it is confusing for visitors," Januzelli said.
She said the agency will defer to local law enforcement when it comes to the enforcement of anti-nudity laws.
"It is a public place where a variety of people go to the hot springs."
That angers naturists like "J Bird," who says she has been going to Diamond Fork for clothing-optional meetings for years.
They call it "Church of the Hot Springs," and it has become a meeting place of spirituality and a way to enjoy the elements with all skin exposed, she said.
"We've had meetings up there for years and years and never run into anything quite so horrid. I am just appalled at the treatment those women got."
She said getting "skin deep" in the wild has nothing to do with sexuality.
"We get close to nature, close to God and are free from the limitations that society imposes on us."
As a result of the October encounter, Bird's group is tentatively planning a "soak-in" as a protest.
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