By Jeremy Kienitz, MC Parks Recreation Director
Rip Currents and Beach Safety
Visitors come to Washington Park beach to enjoy the natural beauty of Lake Michigan’s coastline. Some enjoy the beach itself, while others enjoy sun bathing and sights such as the Lighthouse and Chicago skyline. Michigan City is very fortunate to have such a beautiful attraction and recreational area to spend the summer months with family and friends. As wonderful as it can be, Lake Michigan still presents a danger to those who visit in the form of rip currents.
Rip currents are powerful, channeled currents of water flowing away from shore. They can occur at any beach with breaking waves, including Lake Michigan, and they can be deadly. Rip currents are particularly dangerous for weak or non-swimmers. Rip current speeds are typically 1-2 feet per second. However, speeds as high as 8 feet per second have been measured; this is faster than an Olympic swimmer. Thus, rip currents can sweep even the strongest swimmer out to sea. The following tips could save your life.
- Swim at a lifeguard protected beach
- Never swim alone
- Be cautious at all times! If in doubt, don’t go out!
- Obey all instructions and orders from lifeguards. Lifeguards are trained to identify potential hazards. Ask a lifeguard about the conditions before entering the water.
- Stay at least 400 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist alongside these structures.
- Pay especially close attention to children and elderly when at the beach. Even in shallow water, wave action can cause loss of footing.
If you are ever caught in a rip current, remain calm to conserve energy and think clearly. Never try to fight the current or swim against it as you will tire quickly and become fatigued. To remove yourself from a rip current swim parallel to shore. When out of the current swim at an angle, away from it, towards the shoreline.
Rip currents cause more than 100 deaths annually in the United States and cause 80% of all rescues by beach lifeguards. These statistics show the importance of always adhering to warnings and beach closings. The Washington Park Lifeguard Staff is available for information while on duty Memorial Day through Labor Day. Please take the opportunity to ask them questions about the conditions prior to entering the water. It will help keep you safe and could save your life!
WHAT’S GOING ON AT BISMARCK HILL?
CONTROLLED BURN SCHEDULED FOR BISMARCK HILL
As part of the overall dune restoration project, the Michigan City Park and Recreation Department will be conducting a controlled burn at Bismarck Hill. Controlled burning is an irreplaceable ecological restoration tool, which mimics the wildfires of Pre-European settlement. Many of northern Indiana’s native plant communities are fire dependent and require the reintroduction of fire for the benefit of native flora; with oak savannas and woodlands being particularly dependent upon prescribed fire. Controlled burns promote native plants to produce more flowers and seed by recycling nutrients and exposing the soil to the warming of the sun, increasing the growing season and decreasing non-native competition.
A burn plan has been generated and shared with the Michigan City Fire Department to ensure the work will be conducted in a safe manner that accomplished the ecological goals of the project. The prescribed burn will be conducted after several days of drying weather in order to maximize the effectiveness of the burn. South winds will be required in order to direct any smoke generated out over the lake and away from nearby homes and the zoo. It is anticipated that the burn will be conducted between November 20th and the end of the year.
WHAT: An exciting restoration project. The Park Department, with funding through the Michigan City Redevelopment Commission, is conducting a restoration project on approximately 20 acres. You may hear chainsaws, see large piles of brush, and small controlled burn fires.
WHERE: Bismarck Hill, a set of three sand dunes encompassing approximate 30 acres just east of the Washington Park Zoo.
WHY: We want to bring the dune back to its native state. We have plans for adventure course attractions which will highlight the dune habitat and our coastal region while protecting this great natural resource in Michigan City.
WHEN: Now through late fall.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP: We have installed signs along Lake Shore Drive and Center Street reading “KEEP OUT: Wildlife Restoration Area.” Please respect the signs and stay out of the area while we complete this very sensitive and important work.
BENEFITS: Native communities provide substantial benefits; long-term reduced maintenance costs, carbon footprint reduction, improved soil stability, excess nutrient filtration, stormwater runoff reduction, aesthetic enhancement, and increased habitat diversity for insects, birds, amphibians, and mammals.