Following a tragic 2010 at the city of Marquette's beaches along Lake Superior when four swimmers drowned, the city took action to make the waters safer.
Much of that action involved education of beach users and that appears to have had some positive results.
No drownings were reported in the waters off Marquette in 2011, which contrasts the Great Lakes figures of 87 people losing their lives to drowning last year. That number, released recently by the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project, is up from 74 drownings in the lakes in 2010.
In response to the drownings in 2010, Marquette officials appointed the Waterfront Safety Task Force to develop ways to make city beaches safer for their users.
As the result of the task force's work, new measures implemented for the 2011 swimming season included rip current warning buoys and signs at Middle Bay Beach, where two drownings occurred in 2010; a new lifeguard stand, lifesaving station and buoys advising safe swimming areas at McCarty's Cove; several "no lifeguard on duty" signs; and lifesaving stations on other unpatrolled beaches.
The rip currents off Picnic Rocks can be particularly dangerous, and a new park patrol - as well as concerned citizens - worked hard to let swimmers know of the dangers in that area.
Warnings flags in that area also catch the eye of newcomers to the beaches, letting them know when the currents are at dangerous levels.
Another project undertaken by the city recently was to place gates on the breakwaters in the Upper and Lower harbors that are closed when the waves run high. This move prevents thrill seekers from becoming a tragic statistic, which has occurred in the past.
The Mining Journal pitched in to increase awareness of the problem by placing a banner on our front page for the swim season, warning of the potential danger of Lake Superior. We hope our participation, along with all the other steps the Waterfront Safety Task Force took, helped us to be drowning free in 2011.
There is an inherent danger to swimming and not all accidents can be prevented. However, through the actions of the city of Marquette and the people who use its public beaches, the pleasures of the big lake are being enjoyed on hot summer days in a much safer manner.
The Mining Journal