PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The U.S. Coast Guard station at Holland State Park may be closed by next summer as the agency works to consolidate operations nationwide.
The USCG made the announcement in June through the Federal Register. There are two stations in the Great Lakes Region at risk of being closed: the Holland station and the North Superior station in Minnesota.
“Each of these stations are considered small stations. They’re only seasonal stations, which (means) they all have what we call parent stations. The crews that staff these stations in the summer come from larger stations. In the case of Holland, that crew and that boat most of the year spends their time in Grand Haven and they only relocate for the summer months,” Lt. Paul Rhynard of the Coast Guard’s Great Lakes Region explained.
Rhynard said if the Holland station closes, all operations would be moved permanently to the Grand Haven station.
“The logic behind these stations was based on horse-drawn carriages, using manpower. There wasn’t aircraft, there wasn’t motorboats, for the matter, even at that stage,” he said.
The Coast Guard says closing the Holland station would impact response times but would not mean people on the water are more at risk. Rhynard said local police and firefighters are normally the first on scene of a water rescue anyway.
“When you look at the way search and rescue was conducted over 100 years ago and the way it is now and the technology and ability to respond to those areas quicker than we ever have, that’s a factor as well, but ultimately there are very few situations on the Great Lakes, much less in Holland, where we are the only agency in the water responding,” Rhynard said.
The announcement has sparked concern for some Holland-area residents who say this isn’t the right move.
“It seems like last summer and this summer, every third weekend or so we’ll see EMTs or sheriff’s (deputies) flying by fast on vehicles, which we can assume they’re going out to the beach for some sort of emergency,” said Gregory Tarr, who owns on home on Ottawa Beach Road. “I don’t care how fast the boat is or the helicopter is or what they do to get the people here, it’s not going to be fast enough. Seconds matter in these kind of incidents and if it wasn’t important to be here, (the station) wouldn’t have been here since the late 1800s.”
The decision to close the station is not final. The Coast Guard says it is accepting public feedback through the Federal Register by clicking the word “comment” above the document on the left side of the page. Residents have until Aug. 3 to submit comments.
“The bottom line is if we thought we were increasing the risk to the boaters by making this move, we would not make this move at all,” Rhynard said.
The final call will come from Washington D.C. The Coast Guard Great Lakes Region says it is expecting to have a decision by next boating season. The station will remain open through the end of the year.