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Topless sunbather told to cover up and act her age by park employee at Rolley Lake

Maple Ridge woman wants others to know it is legal for women to go topless in public
Maple Ridge resident Sue Ashley pictured topless with her daughter in front at Rolley Lake Provincial Park. (Special to The News)

A topless sunbather at a local provincial park was told to cover up and act her age by a park employee.

Sue Ashley was at Rolley Lake with her husband on Monday, May 15, and enjoying the day at the beach, when she was approached by a worker late in the afternoon.

Ashley said the confrontation took place at around 5 p.m., when the man, who she estimated to be in his 20s, told her to put her top back on.

“It’s perfectly legal for me to be sitting there without a top,” said the 65-year-old Maple Ridge resident, which is what she told the worker, before informing him she would not put her top back on.

In fact, it is legal for women to be topless anywhere in the province thanks to Maple Ridge resident Linda Meyer. Meyer took the issue to the Supreme Court in 2000 and won after she was charged with violating a local bylaw when she went topless at a local pool.

The worker told Ashley he was going to check with his supervisor and Ashley told him that would be a good idea.

About 15 minutes later the worker returned and told her that “technically” she was correct, that it is not against the law to be topless.

However, he advised Ashley, that somebody her age should know better and that she needed to start acting her age.

“I was just gobsmacked,” she said.

When Ashley’s husband told the worker how dare he talk to his wife that way, the worker walked off.

Ashley and her husband stayed in the park about another half hour before packing it in for the day – largely because of the incident.

“It was really unsettling,” said Ashley, who refused to put on her top, describing the worker as arrogant.

“I did not put my top on. I did not. I’m like, no, I’m not doing that,” she said.

RELATED: B.C. woman calls for equality after trying to do yoga topless

Ashley did make a phone call from the beach to the operators of the park, Alouette Park Management, and, she said somebody called her back the following day.

She would eventually talk with the operating manager of Rolley Lake Provincial Park, James Hall, who immediately apologized, she said.

Hall said the young employee in question is new to the job and was unaware that women could be topless in the park. However, he said, his inappropriate remarks about her age are being dealt with “internally”.

He also noted that he was very disappointed with the actions of the individual and noted there needs to be better education and training – something he said he has implemented into the training program at Rolley Lake and Golden Ears Provincial Parks for both day and night staff.

“Whether you are male or female, you are within your rights to recreate topless,” confirmed Hall.

ALSO READ: Problems in the world bigger than pot and bare breasts

This is not the first negative incident that Ashley has encountered while sunbathing topless. Three years ago she had a water bottle thrown at her.

Ashley said she would really like an apology from this provincial park employee.

In addition, she wants more people to be informed about the legal right of women to be topless in public.

“I am so fed up with people sexualizing nipples – women’s nipples, not men’s nipples,” said Ashley, noting that the reason she goes topless is she doesn’t like the feeling of wet clothing sitting on her skin. “It’s not because I love being an exhibitionist but I just don’t like the feeling on me.”

Ashley is also tired of the attitude that it is okay for a man to walk around topless, but not a woman.

“Sexualizing women’s bodies, it just makes me angry,” she said.

And she plans on returning to Rolley Lake again – topless.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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