Michigan has in excess of 2,100 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, which contain more than 100 public beaches. When conditions are right the Great Lakes can have waves and currents of incredible force. Unfortunately, hazardous water currents on the Great Lakes account for may drowning deaths each year. Rip currents, other dangerous currents and unsafe wave conditions can occur along many beaches around the state.
In recent years, there’s been an important focus to make the public aware of the danger involving unsafe water currents as well as providing additional safety and rescue equipment at public beaches, but concerns have been raised about liability. Many local units of government have expressed trepidation about potential liability regarding the placement of safety and rescue equipment on their public swimming beaches. However, Michigan governmental agencies are generally immune from liability in connection with beach safety. Still, it is nonetheless important for communities to take every measure they can to protect public safety.
Communities looking to establish or update their beach safety guidelines, policies and plans have numerous resources to refer to for review. For example, in May, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources updated their Designated Beach Policy. To view the policy click the link provided MDNR POLICY 3. 6 DESIGNATED BEACHES 05-05-16 (002). A few local community examples are provided in the links below.
Any local unit of government having specific questions should discuss this matter with their legal counsel.
Jennifer Rigterink is a legislative associate for the League handling economic development, land use and municipal services issues. She can be reached at [email protected] or 517-908-0305.