A proposed director’s order up for information at the July 15 Natural Resources Commission (NRC) meeting would make it illegal to enter the water from state-managed beach areas during red flag days.
Red flag days are universally accepted as a way to inform swimmers they should not enter the water because conditions are severe and there is a high risk of drowning.
This order does not require NRC or legislative approval. Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Director Daniel Eichinger has sole authority over the proposal once presented to the public for information in July and possible action in August at the respective NRC meetings.
Michigan United Conservation Clubs does not have a resolution on the matter; however, the organization is concerned this could lead to a slippery slope, said Ian FitzGerald, MUCC policy coordinator.
“While MUCC does not have a decisive member policy on red flag days and beach access, our organization has many policies related to public land use, hours of operation and accessibility,” FitzGerald said. “We encourage our members and those concerned or in support to reach out to the appropriate entities or individuals with your opinions.”
The proposed language reads, “A person shall not do any of the following in any [state park] or [recreation area]: (6) Exit the state managed beach area for the purpose of entry into the water when entry is prohibited by signage and/or communication by a department employee or their designee.”
In 2020, Lake Michigan experienced 56 drowning deaths — the deadliest year on record. Since 2010, 965 people have drowned in the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project. However, it isn’t specifically stated whether or not those deaths were due to disregarding red flag warnings or if this order would have been applicable.
In Wisconsin, the state closes its beaches on red flag days, and if people choose to swim, they do so at their own risk. It is unclear if there are fines and penalties levied for those disregarding closures. MUCC is working to find out more information on this.
If you wish to testify in person on this order, please email email@example.com the topic you will be speaking on and your name. The meeting will be held at the Okemos Conference Center located at 2187 University Park Drive Okemos, MI 48864 and will start at 9 a.m. Written testimony can be provided to the same email above.
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