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Ottawa officials warn of beach crowding, no-wake rules due to high waters

Parking may be limited at beach lots to help with social distancing.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — High waters swallowing beaches and threatening homes have Ottawa County officials concerned about summer traffic on the lakeshore during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We're trying to manage expectations," said Jessica Vanginhoven, spokesperson for the Ottawa Parks and Recreation department. "Our beaches are smaller, much smaller even than last year." 

County parks staff will limit parking at all lakeshore parks due to the dwindling beaches. Visitors that park in marked or blocked off areas will be cited. 

The curbed real estate heightens the threat of overcrowding and spreading COVID-19, Vanginhoven said. 

"We want people to stay safe, but we also want them to enjoy everything that's there," she said. "If we have a weekend where people are on top of each other or not respecting distance on the beach, maybe we have to look at limiting parking even further."

The parks department is recommending visitors keep off dunes and avoid the peak beach hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

In Holland, high water is damaging docks and flowing over sea walls into homes on Lake Macatawa. Any boat that makes a wake risks damage to public and private property, Mayor Nathan Bocks said. 

"We want people to get out there and enjoy their boats, but we want them to be mindful," Bocks said. "Ultimately, it costs taxpayers dollars, and we're trying to limit that as much as possible."

The Holland City Council recently approved a resolution to expand no-wake zones on Lake Macatawa. Both Park Township and Holland Township, which surround the lake, are considering identical measures, Bocks said. 

"Before the rule goes into place, we 're asking people to follow them as if they are in place now," he said. "These are friends and neighbors, and we're trying to protect their property."

While social distancing is not enforceable, Ottawa County officials recommend sending serious complaints to StayHomeStaySafeComplaints@miOttawa.org

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