SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — Four people were fined $1,000 each for jumping off the South Haven North Pier Friday afternoon.
South Haven Police Chief Natalie Thompson told News 8 that an officer saw a group of young adults climbing on a ladder on the beach’s north pier around 2 p.m. Thompson said the officer approached the group and told them about a new city ordinance, passed in January, that set $1,000 fines for jumping off the pier. The officer later returned and saw the group jumping off the pier. Four were cited.
Emergency responders have been concerned about people jumping off the pier for a while.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people just don’t understand the dangers of jumping off our piers,” Thompson said, “whether it’s nice weather or not, whether there are waves or not.”
The new ordinance is part of an effort to keep people safe after several drownings and water rescues in South Haven in recent years.
“There were a couple days last summer where we would be in the midst of one rescue and then there’s another person jumping off the pier or swimming out and needed a rescue,” Thompson said. “There were a couple days when we had multiple rescues at once.”
“It was a bad summer,” she added. “Mother Nature has a lot do with it. We’re coming out of COVID; I think a lot of people were tired of being cooped up.”
The police chief said currents and riptides are stronger closer to the pier.
“People can caught in between that area,” Thompson said. “So even if you’re a good swimmer, you can’t make it to the pier and you can kind of get caught. There are some rocks in that area.”
The ordinance is also in place to protect first responders.
“Their lives are also at risk when they’re going out on these rescues,” Thompson said. “We’ve had many first responders that have risked their own lives and a few of them have actually had to be rescued also.”
The measure also sets a $1,000 fine for visitors going in the water when the beach is closed. The city can shut down beaches due to waves over 8 feet, severe weather, contaminated water, debris floating in the water and rescue efforts already underway.
When the beach is closed, a few groups can go in the water without being fined. That includes people surfing, longboarding, kiteboarding, bodyboarding or skimboarding, the police chief said.
There are signs in place at the North and South piers notifying visitors of the fines.
Thompson acknowledged one challenge is making sure out-of-state visitors are aware.
“We attract individuals from all over the country, all over the world, really… A lot of people who don’t live here year-round don’t understand the dangers of Lake Michigan or jumping off the pier,” she said.