South Haven panel votes against adding lifeguards

Van Buren County

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The South Haven Beach Safety Committee has recommended the city not move forward with a proposal to create a lifeguard program.

On Thursday, the committee turned down motions, in 5-2 votes, that would have recommended the city council bring back lifeguards to city beaches.

South Haven ended its lifeguard program more than 20 years ago, citing liability and increased insurance costs as major factors.

The Beach Safety Committee did support a plan to expand the beach monitoring program. That currently includes a contract with South Haven Area Emergency Services for changing flag signals and checking the pier life preserver rings and throw bags. It’s still unclear exactly how it would be expanded.

Three people drowned in Lake Michigan at South Haven last summer.

Committee member Kameron Daugherty was among the two who voted to recommend a lifeguard program. She’s also head of South Haven L.I.F.E., a group pushing for a number of safety improvements including the addition of lifeguards. She said there’s clear evidence they would make the beach safer.

“I think the best way to address this is we need trained eyes on the water, fast feet on the sand and working at preventing on the front end, instead of getting better at responding to emergencies,” Daugherty said.

“I feel South Haven is in a unique position to really set the bar for what the standard looks like in lakeshore communities in Michigan,” she added. “So I really hope that soon we’ll take that up and then that can be a point of pride for us and something to provide support to other lakeshore communities.”

The city council will now take up the issue.

Daugherty, a South Haven native who returned there to raise her own children, told News 8 that she plans to run for city council.

“This lakeshore is a gift. It’s a blessing,” she said. “And I think it’s incumbent upon us as residents of South Haven to be good stewards of that blessing. And I’m not certain we’re there yet. These last two years have shown us we’re not. There’s room for growth.” 

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