Naked people on the run

Wreck Beach

Wreck Beach is a sight for sore eyes: naked men and women – letting it all hang out in God’s glory – playing volleyball, singing folk songs, cooking up burgers and selling almost anything from mushrooms and weed cookies to cold beer and Jell-O shooters in front of a pristine backdrop of sun, sand, ocean and mountains.
But the internationally famous “clothing-optional” beach is under threat from its uptight neighbour on top of the hill, the University of British Columbia (UBC), who probably gets undressed in the dark and cries during sex. After building one residence tower that can be viewed from the beach at low tide, the university is planning on building three more 20-floor towers that could (pun intended) wreck the beach.

“It’s a crime against nature, it’s a crime against the Wreck Beach people,” says Judy Williams,” chair of the Wreck Beach Preservation Society. She says the development will rupture the beach’s ambiance and destroy the sensitive environmental area, which has suffered from landslides and, aside from accommodating some rather interesting people who wear nothing more than fanny packs, is also a wildlife habitat.

The battle over the towers has gone before the Greater Vancouver Regional District (GVRD) board of directors who recently told the university that they can only build the three towers if any other plan would cause “unreasonable hardship.” The proposal is seen to give the university some “wiggle room,” which in the end, will most likely still allow them to throw a big cock ring over some of the most valuable real estate in the city. UBC is currently undertaking a $1.2 billion makeover that will transform the neighbourhood and double its campus population by 2021 and it’s not about to let some bare ass get in its way.

Although the university has a long history of trying to get rid of the nudists, UBC says the preservation society’s fears are based on misinformation and that the towers will not be seen from the beach during the spring and summer seasons – even though many of the hard core beach bums go all year round. UBC is also playing the student card, saying it would be devastating if the towers, which will accommodate 2,000 students on a waiting list of 3,500, are not built.

“These delays, given the very sharp rise in construction prices, will ultimately be borne by the students,” says UBC vice-president Dennis Pavlich.

Well damn it to hell, if the naked hippies didn’t rent a blimp, take it for a ride and show UBC that the towers will in fact be visible from the beach. Although the university ended up dropping the height of the first tower to 18 floors, it disputes the claim and says the blimp work is limp. UBC may have a legitimate claim, but it’s hard to trust the institution considering its actions. Even though the university is a non-profit, it’s using profits from housing developments to fund its academic institutions and is seen as pushing the towers at any cost. It has also been very clear that the university, and not the GVRD or the community, have the final say.

“[UBC] haven’t set up a process that builds on the public involvement and that still is a concern,” says Anne Roberts, a Vancouver councilor and GVRD director.

Wreck Beach is a cultural institution in Vancouver not just because you can catch a glimpse at naked drunk people (okay maybe a little), but because of the strong community that has grown out of decades of social resistance. Unfortunately, it’s on valuable land and when it comes to development, nothing is sacred, not even your dick.

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