MUSKEGON, Mich. - Nine years ago, lifeguards were removed from many public beaches in Michigan, including Pere Marquette Beach.
However, the city of Muskegon has not abandoned safety at Pere Marquette Beach. It recently purchased an ATV so that first responders can maneuver on the beach, and it recently placed numbered signs for emergency callers to reference as a way to identify their exact location.
"You tell them I'm by sign three, I'm by sign seven," said Jeffrey Lewis, the Muskegon Director of Public Safety.
Like most communities, Muskegon cut lifeguards over financial and liability concerns. But it was that factor that prompted the county's water safety task force to begin placing life jacket loaner stations at area beaches.
"They can mean the difference between life and death for somebody," said Holly Alway the Injury Prevention Coordinator Mercy Health Muskegon.
Lewis also emphasized the importance of having life jackets accessible on the beach. "If you have a floatation devise on, we do know that even if you get in trouble, we are going to perform a rescue because we can get to you because you are above the water."
A beach on Mona Lake in Muskegon Heights didn't have a loaner board, until it received a $2,500 check from Lake Michigan Credit Union. The credit unions banded together and paid for this board and four others.
"This means in our third year of putting these boards out we will have a board at every public beach in Muskegon County when we finish these five," said Alway.
The task force sees beach visitors using the life jackets. Still their worst fear is one tired swimmer or one rip current away. And August can be the most dangerous month of the summer.
"We know the lake starts to turn and we have more of those red flag warning days," said Alway.
Lewis also said that the August weather can be dangerous for beach goers. "Winds, humidity, and heat, when they come together that means big waves big crowds and becomes more dangerous on Lake Michigan."
Every beach will now have these jackets. The credit union hopes those jackets are put to good use.
"We have got lakes and beaches and let's enjoy them but let's be safe by doing that," said Corena Leutscher the Lake Michigan Credit Union Norton Shores Branch Manager.
The task force continues looking for new initiatives to keep swimmers safe.
"If they are passionate about water safety, the door is always open," said Alway.
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