November 12, 1999 06:54am
Nudist Beach Lawsuit Nearing End
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - For Robert Morton III, childhood wasn't the same without the family trips to the nude beach called Hippie Hollow Park. Bob and Christine Morton often visited the park with their three children before Travis County barred those under 18. Officials said the state's only government-maintained nude park is a potential breeding ground for sexual predators and no place for kids.
The Mortons want the rule thrown out.
For the past four years the two sides have been battling in court, and on Thursday the civil case brought by the Mortons was in the hands of a district judge. A ruling was expected early next week.
``It's been an enormously long road,'' said the 19-year-old Morton, who was 14 when his family sued.
``I've been waiting around for this case to come around to some kind of verdict that the law no longer applies to me,'' he said from his Rice University dorm room. ``That four or five years of my life that I couldn't go to Hippie Hollow was a pretty big cheat.''
The Mortons - including Charles, 12, and Becky, 16 - believe they were stripped of more than family time at the rocky Lake Travis spot that became a skinny-dipping haven in 1960s. They say the government is taking away their constitutional rights, including the right to privacy and freedom of expression.
``It's not just important to us for our own sake to get to use the park. First of all, we feel violated in principle. They are essentially telling our parents how they should raise me and my brother and sister,'' said Robert Morton.
``This is not so much a matter of nudity as it is parental rights,'' father Bob Morton said. ``Who is the county to come in and say they don't wish it? The county is saying there's something wrong with the way of life we've chosen, which there's nothing illegal about.''
Travis County and the Lower Colorado River Authority, which owns and leases the Hippie Hollow land, say the issue is not the violation of parental rights, but the protection of children.
``My understanding about the suit is that the purpose of the rule really is to protect children from exposure to really deviant sexual acts that occur at the park,'' said LCRA lawyer James Rader.
Bob Morton said county officials are unfairly associating nudism with sexual wrongdoing because they don't understand naturism, which promotes ``healthy, wholesome attitudes about nudity and the human body.''
``There is nothing more family oriented than naturism,'' he said.