South Haven may close beaches and piers under unsafe conditions
SOUTH HAVEN, MI — A new ordinance is designed to keep people away from South Haven piers when conditions are unsafe.
The City of South Haven has the authority to close Lake Michigan beaches and piers in the event of unsafe conditions, after a new ordinance has been adopted in January.
It is also forbidden to dive or jump from the docks. People could face a $1,000 fine and a civil offense for ignoring the ordinance, city officials said in a news release.
“By passing this ordinance, we are taking an aggressive stance on water safety,” said South Haven City Manager Kate Hosier. “Not only are swimmers and bathers at risk when they ignore warning signs, but their actions also put first responders and rescue teams at risk.”
Last summer in the South Haven area, three people drowned and there were 23 stranded person rescues in Lake Michigan.
The South Haven Area Emergency Services Authority regularly pleads with people to stay away from the piers when the waves are breaking through them, as there is a risk of being swept off the pier and into Lake Michigan .
When the beach is closed, people are prohibited from entering the water. The city manager, chief of police, harbor master and director of the South Haven Area Emergency Services Authority all have the ability to close or partially close beaches.
There are five different safety hazards, which are waves over 8 feet in height, rescue and recovery efforts, contamination, and severe weather events from the National Weather Service, according to the release.
When a closure is in place, signs will be posted stating that entering the water is prohibited. Signs and barricades will also be installed to close the docks.
Water sports are still permitted when the beach is closed due to extreme weather conditions or wave heights, according to the press release. This includes surfing, kitesurfing, skimboarding, bodyboarding (boogie) with swim fins and longboarding or any surfboard.
People who practice these sports do so at their own risk, according to the statement. People should follow safety rules and procedures such as using a safety leash and wearing weather-appropriate clothing.
The city has created a website and an SMS alert program will notify people of the current level of flag safety at Lake Michigan beaches in the community. People can register using QR codes displayed throughout the city
“South Haven is taking a proactive step to ensure we can all enjoy a safe beach season,” Hosier said. “We invite beachgoers to enjoy the natural beauty our city offers while heeding safety warnings – and being aware of the consequences of their actions.”
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