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New warning system for swimmers at Pere Marquette Beach in 2021

There were two drownings at Muskegon's Pere Marquette Beach in 2020, however, they were not during the summer months when swimmers flock to the beach to cool off.

MUSKEGON, Mich — According to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, there were 110 drownings in the Great Lakes in 2020, and 57 of those in Lake Michigan including two at Muskegon's Pere Marquette Park.

But the two Muskegon drownings included in the data were not swimmers.

In February, a Muskegon area man slipped on ice and fell into the lake, another was swept off the pier in November. Both men drowned.

Even though the latest drownings were not related to swimming, the City of Muskegon is working to prevent drownings at the beach. 

Muskegon's City Commission authorized the purchase of the SwimSmart Warning System. The cost of adding the warning system to Pere Marquette will be around $14,000.

It uses a series of lights to inform visitors about conditions in Lake Michigan, The information is gathered in real time from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"It will be automatically controlled based on what NOAA issues for Muskegon County," said Muskegon Public Works Director Leo Evans.

Small red, yellow, and green lights will be visible from parking areas and larger elevated red lights will activate and blink when swimmers shouldn't go into the water.

"There will be a pole mounted, red light, a strobe light that's only on when there is a red flag warning from NOAA," said Evans.

Flag warning systems required changing by staff. The electronic system changes anytime water conditions change and staff can override the electronic warning system if needed.

Evans says it will take swimmers following the warning signs for the system to be effective.

"We're just trying to get people the information," said Evans. "We want them to know what the situations are without having to make that judgment themselves. Listen to what NOAA is telling you." 

The city's D.P.W. hopes to have the new water condition warning system operational by June 2021. 

If city leaders are please with the way the system works, it could be expanded to other locations along Pere Marquette Beach or the beach at Kruse Park.

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