GRAND HAVEN, Mich. (WOOD) — The state of Michigan is still working on putting its safety flags and buoys into place for the season.
Last week, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced the state will be issuing a new flag warning system, with double-red warning flags being used at state-designated swim beaches. But despite the rush to the beach, some still don’t have their flags out just yet.
According to the state of Michigan, buoys and markers are typically installed prior to the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but as of June 1, the flags and buoys are nowhere to be seen at Grand Haven Beach.
“It’s not all that unusual,” said Pat Whalen, DNR Parks and Recreation Division District Supervisor. “We shoot for Memorial Day for the installation and they usually remain in through Labor Day. Sometimes that’s not possible just based on available staff and lake conditions, so both of those need to match up on days that we have planned for a buoy install.”
According to the DNR, the delay is due to water temperatures.
“For Grand Haven for instance, they had planned on doing them last week and it just didn’t match up with the lake conditions and the available staff,” said Whalen. “Part of the reason we would also need to wait until later is the lake temperature. The flags begin when the beach becomes a designated beach, and the buoys designate that as a designated beach.”
However, Director of Education for the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project Bob Pratt said even when the flags are up, it can still be confusing to swimmers.
“Right now in South Haven, a red flag means the water is closed and you could get a $1,000 fine,” he said. “A red flag five miles south at Van Buren State Park means it’s perfectly legal to go into the water. It means it’s dangerous, but it’s perfectly legal to go into the water. Imagine if we had a situation where a traffic light meant one thing in Grand Rapids, and it meant something completely different in Lansing.”
He said the state needs to do a better job when it comes to water safety education and relaying consistent information with meaning of the flags from beach to beach.
The biggest frustrations that we have in the water safety community is lack of consistent messaging,” explained Pratt. “And unfortunately, the Michigan DNR is completely missing the boat when it comes to consistency.”
The DNR told News 8 it can’t confirm which day it will be putting the flags and buoys in, but have two days picked out for this week, and it depends on lake conditions.