A Boulder woman who was threatened with eviction last spring for gardening outside while wearing nothing but pasties and a thong took her au naturel look to the next level Wednesday, causing a stir with neighbors and police.
Catharine Pierce, 52, took advantage of the nice weather by toplessly tending to her gardens in the front and back yards of her home in the 800 block of Cherry Avenue in north Boulder.
Neighbors and passersby first called police to report the woman, who kept on her yellow thong and pink gardening gloves, about 1:45 p.m.
Sarah Huntley, a police spokeswoman, said an officer sent to investigate told the woman that she should consider putting on a shirt out of concern for the children playing outside the Shining Mountain Waldorf School across the street.
Pierce went inside where her husband, Robert Pierce, 59, called police to complain about the officer's unsolicited recommendation.
Huntley said a police supervisor agreed with the man that his wife wasn't breaking any laws.
Robert Pierce told the supervisor, "OK, well, she's going back outside with her top off," Huntley said.
While Boulder bans public nudity at the shores of Coot Lake -- a popular gathering spot for nudists decades ago -- and state law prohibits exposing genitals, being topless isn't against the law in Boulder.
Huntley said police "can't order her to put a shirt on," but the officer was justified in asking her to reconsider her scant clothing because families were concerned.
"The officer certainly can still advise her to put her shirt on ... based on other factors, such as children in the area," Huntley said.
Police received at least four calls about the topless gardener. Dispatchers began telling callers there was nothing they could do as long as the woman's thong stayed on, Huntley said.
"We have done what we can within the limits of the law as it stands now," Huntley said.
The Boulder City Council, which is considering expanding its anti-nudity law, recently removed a proposal that would have made showing the female nipple in public a municipal offense.
Huntley said the concerns among neighbors point to the need for such a code.
"These are some of the issues we are attempting to address with the proposal of a nudity ordinance," she said.
Tending to her front lawn, Catharine Pierce declined to answer questions. Her husband, however, said they weren't doing anything wrong.
"You don't see us trying to lure children over here," Robert Pierce said. "We stay within the scope of the law."
Asked why his wife works outside nearly nude, he said that's their way of worshipping.
Boulder Housing Partners, which owns the couple's house, threatened to evict the couple last year, saying they were violating the terms of their lease by creating a nuisance with their nudity.
The appearance drew mixed reactions Wednesday.
Jessica Mulen, a nanny walking three young children along the street, said, "I would assume their parents would have a problem with that" and headed the other direction.
Bill Hanson, a Boulder resident who brought his children to a busy park near the Pierce home, said he first saw the woman with pasties on last year.
"I saw a gal with no top on," he said. "I did a double-take."
Hanson said the scene was a little shocking, but "she seemed kind of casual about it."
Karon Dickinson, who was also visiting the park, said she was OK with the woman's choice.
"I could care less if someone wants to sit out there like that," she said.
She said she didn't know being topless in Boulder is legal, and she might take a cue from the gardener.
"I might do it in my backyard," she said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Heath Urie at 303-473-1328 or firstname.lastname@example.org.