SAUGATUCK, Mich. (WOOD) - The drownings of two men Tuesday in high waves are raising questions about safety at Saugatuck Dunes State Park and whether the state should install warning flags.
"Information should be out there somewhere, whether it's at the entrance to the beach or the entrance to the parking lot," said regular beach-goer Ruth Johnson.
On Tuesday, 46-year-old Daniel Reed, of Redford, and his 22-year-old nephew, Bradley Stoner, of Livonia, both described as strong swimmers, drowned in 6 to 8 foot waves at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Their bodies were recovered the next day.
Red flags were flying elsewhere on Tuesday, including at Grand Haven State Park, warning of powerful waves and rip currents. But, there is no warning system at the park in Saugatuck.
Ruth Johnson and her friend, Kristi Mueller, visting the beach on Wednesday with their children, are from the area and know the potential dangers.
"To me, it's just visual," Johnson said. "You have to respect the water because you know if the waves are this high, there's something mroe going on."
But, they wonder if out-of-towners should be made aware of the danger -- especially in an area that draws tourists.
This beach is unlike the more popular beaches in places like Grand Haven and Holland. For one, it's a long walk to reach it. But, still, it sometimes draws dozens of beach-goers on a nice day.
"I would think they (out-of-towners) would think it's fair game," Mueller said. "It's a beach. It's really one of the more beautiful beaches. There's no rocks. I mean, it's so inviting. It would be hard to keep people from swimming."
Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Mary Dettloff told 24 Hour News 8 that the park in Saugatuck is not a designated swim area and doesn't have a flag system because it's only staffed part-time.
"We don't have the staff to maintain a red flag system, or the beach," she said. "Like anywhere else in Michigan, if you're going to go swimming in the Great Lakes, that's an individual decision that you have to weigh; as an individual you have to weigh the risk, that is a swim-at-your-own risk, just like almost any other public beach in the state of Michigan."
She recommended visitors check for water conditions on-line, either through the National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or the U.S. Coast Guard. They can also be found in the Beaches section on woodtv.com
But, a flag system, she says, doesn't guarantee safety.
"Even if there were red flags, even if there was a designated swim area marked by buoys, people, we see it all the time, people still go in the water."
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