In 2010, after a heartbreaking summer with four drowning deaths, the Marquette city commission appointed a Waterfront Safety Task Force to develop a comprehensive waterfront safety initiative. From the largest institutions to individual citizens, the community embraced and supported the task force. The goals of the task force are education/awareness; on-beach support; off-shore support; and emergency response. Marquette General Hospital, Northern Michigan University (NMU), the Marquette Area Public School System, and our Convention and Visitor’s Bureau provided both human resources and financial support for education/awareness. Whether hotel/motel brochures, internet-based information, lesson plans, signage ideas, classroom delivery, or other media, the task force could not have done this without them.
On-beach support included new lifeguard stands, life-saving stations, flag pole warning systems, buoys, signage, and life jacket loaner stations. Local service clubs provided the bulk of the financial support. The rescue stations were part of an Eagle Scout project accomplished through volunteer labor, and financed through service clubs, churches, and NMU.
Off-shore support was handled by local boaters, the Power Squadron (a boating safety organization), and the US Coast Guard. Weather spotting and emergency assistance plans were drawn up and executed. Knowledgeable boaters also served on the task force, sharing a tremendous amount of local nautical expertise. In addition, recreationists such as surfers and wind surfers, along with Dr. Ron Kinnunen of the Michigan Sea Grant Office, were able to point out all of the dangerous rip current and channel current areas along our eleven miles of shoreline.
All local emergency response agencies were involved in planning and exercising water emergencies. The city fire department, city police dive team, county sheriff dive team, Marquette EMS, coast guard, and lifeguards integrated under the incident command system and operated through our county 911 dispatch center.
The ambition of the waterfront safety project could easily have been thwarted by a lack of funds. Happily, the whole community came through with a level of commitment and support that was remarkable. The Marquette waterfront safety initiative is a great story of community success.