Nude Topeka walker: ‘I don’t want people to think I’m the monster in their nightmares’

? A Topeka man who likes to walk a local trail without clothing isn’t breaking any local laws.

“I don’t do drugs,” said Steven Herrold, who was born in Wichita and moved to Topeka in 1980. “I just enjoy it (being nude outside). I’m not harassing people. A flasher constitutes harassment. I think people get angry at me because they don’t know me. I’m not out to offend people. I don’t want to shock or offend anybody.”

Herrold has been spotted several times walking naked on the Shunga Trail, apparently when the weather cooperates. He also rides his bike in the buff, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported.

“I enjoy the sun,” Herrold said. “I leave people alone. I turn around and walk away if there are children. I don’t go anywhere near schools.”

It’s legal to walk and bike in Topeka without clothes. Public nudity could result in an arrest if the person is taking part in lewd and lascivious behavior.

“It would be a behavior meant to arouse himself or someone else,” said Topeka police Lt. Colleen Stuart.

Herrold said he’s had run-ins with law enforcement officers while he’s been out naked and the officers “were very nice, and I’ve always respected them, too.”

Police told him last week, however, that he will have to stop walking the trail naked because too many people have been calling about him. Stuart said the Shawnee County Parks and Recreation Department, which controls the Shunga Trail, may post signs stating what behavior is expected at parks.

“So he would be in violation of the policy but not an ordinance,” Stuart said. “It would only be if, as a result of being asked to dress or leave, there was a disturbance that if an ordinance was violated a citation could be issued.”

But until there is an ordinance or county resolution for indecent exposure, Herrold isn’t breaking any laws.

The Topeka City Council in 2005 rejected an ordinance to ban nudity on public property or in public view on private property. The council deemed it wasn’t necessary. It took up the issue again late last year, but the council’s three-person public health and safety committee chose not to make a recommendation on the matter.

“I’m not a creep,” Herrold said. “I don’t want to upset people. I don’t want people to think I’m the monster in their nightmares.”