DNR proposal would fine people who enter water when red flags are flying

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says they want to save lives by fining people who enter Michigan Great Lakes when they deem it not safe.

“The idea is that we advise not to go in the water when the red flags are flying,” said Ron Olson. He is the chief of parks and rec for the Michigan DNR.

Olson supports the proposition and says when you see the red flags flying at the beach, it means waves are probably 4 to 5 feet tall. He wants to change it from being a suggestion that you avoid the water to a mandate.

“Our goal is to have no emergency situations, have nobody get hurt, and have everybody have a good time,
said Olson.

They propose to close beaches during bad weather and fine people who step into the water.

Not everyone is on board just yet, and some feel the proposal needs clarification.

“We’ve had a lot of Supreme Court cases in Michigan that protects people’s ability to walk along the beach and to walk into the water, but what the DNR basically has control over is their land authority. So they can prevent through this regulation if adopted people from entering the water from their beach so it would not extend to private lands, it would not extend to county, or township owned lands that would only be lands managed and owned by the department of natural resources.”

Amy Trotter is the executive director of the Michigan United Conservation Clubs based in Lansing.

She says they are not opposed to the concept but need clarity on what conditions this would be used for.

“At this point, we don’t really know what that communication would look like, or what the signage might look like. there’s concern that this policy change could limit entry into the water on any red flag day potentially. Would this prohibit even wading into the water to cool off? Or to rinse your feet off? Or would it be only swimming?

The MUCC says they hope people can enjoy the Great Lakes safely, but don’t want the DNR to have too much power over the lakes.

“We believe strongly here at MUCC that our natural resources are something that all the public should be able to enjoy and take part in.”

The DNR’s proposal is up for public input this week, and potential action next month.

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