South Haven considering pier gates and red flag fines

Van Buren County

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The South Haven City Council will consider adding gates to close the piers during red flag warnings.

A proposed ordinance would also establish fines for people who enter the water or go on the piers during the severe conditions.

Alyssa Hoff, a visitor of South Haven, says barriers would be helpful as an additional safety measure.

“Growing up in Michigan, especially near the lake, there’s always stories about places like Holland and Grand Haven that have fatalities,” Hoff said. “Since it’s a big tourist place people might not understand what red flags mean and it’s always better to have a physical barrier.”

Holland has a gate system in place and an ordinance similar to the one being proposed in South Haven. Kate Hosier, the city manager of South Haven, says the community has been reviewing water safety measures for more than a year.

“Most people don’t realize that it doesn’t take very much wave or wind action to push people either off the piers or to get swept off,” Hosier said.

Kite boarders would be allowed in the water but at their own risk.

“The piers are not really able to be closed per se. We can close access possibly to the piers but we also don’t have permission from the corps of engineers to close their piers. We don’t have an agreement with them,” Hosier said.

Part of the plan would include building gates on the piers at an estimated costs of around $20,000. The city council decided to not bring back the lifeguard program this year but the Beach Safety Committee came up with other suggestions.

“This is following almost a year and a half worth of work by city staff, volunteers and a lot of people who’ve put in a lot of time and energy giving us these recommendations,” Hosier said.

The draft ordinance is on the agenda for the city council meeting Monday night. The exact amount of what a fine would cost is not yet specified in the plan.

No Lake Michigan drownings have occurred in South Haven this year and no rescues have been made by emergency services, according to Hosier.

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