New signs to warn visitors of dangerous lake conditions
MICHIGAN CITY — In 2016, Michigan City installed life rings along the lighthouse pier in Washington Park as a safety measure after a number of drownings. Two years later, cameras were installed which activated when the ring boxes were opened.
But the death of a young La Porte County man, who was washed off the pier by high waves and drowned just before Christmas, showed the pier can still be dangerous in certain conditions.
To further enhance safety, Mayor Ron Meer announced Friday that the city will be installing digital warning signs in Washington Park, thanks to a $50,000 grant from ArcelorMittal – the final phase of the lakefront safety upgrades.
“With this grant, the city was able to purchase six digital warning signs that will be placed at the entrance to the pier and on the lifeguard tower,” Meer said in a statement. “These signs will serve the purpose of notifying residents and visitors to Washington Park and our lakefront of potential dangerous lake conditions.”
Meer created the Lakefront Safety Committee in 2016 as part of an overall public safety initiative. The committee previously had secured funds for the life rings and cameras along the pier and Trail Creek.
The value of the rings has already been shown. Over the last two years, the rings have been used on at least three occasions to help people who had fallen into the water off the pier.
After the second such incident last summer, Meer said, “It humbles me to know that the equipment we installed was utilized by two Michigan City residents to prevent drownings from occurring. I am so glad this had a good ending.
“During the past year, we have seen the results of our dedication to building a safer lakefront. The committee formed in late 2016 was dedicated to ‘Zero Fatalities at the Lakefront,’ and our efforts have had a positive impact on our community,” the mayor said.
The Michigan City Fire Department, with the help of donations, raised the money to purchase the rings, ropes and cabinets; and a $13,000 grant from ArcelorMittal to the Lakefront Safety Committee finalized the funding. Fire Department employees installed the rings in late 2016. The department has also conducted educational sessions for students and adults to demonstrate the rings in simulated rescues.
The cameras were added in 2018.
“The Michigan City Fire Department secured funding to install cameras along the East Pier,” Meer said when they were installed. “Along with the life rings, cameras will be utilized to give real-time updates to public safety personnel responding to any incident, which is an advantage to the safety and security of our personnel.”
The cameras cost about $200,000 and serve a dual purpose, according to officials. Not only can they help first responders know what’s happening in an emergency, but they can also be used to see vandals who try to damage the rings or boxes.
The warning signs will be the latest safety upgrade, and again it was ArcelorMittal that provided the funds to make it happen.
“ArcelorMittal has now contributed over $60,000 towards our Lakefront Safety Initiative and their generous grant dollars have provided us the opportunity to upgrade our lakefront safety measures at little cost to our tax payers,” Meer said. “I would like to thank them for being a proactive partner through this process.”
—From staff reports