City of New Buffalo to start fining people who ignore red flags signaling dangerous lake waters
New Buffalo beach fans, beware: From now on if you disregard the red flags that warn of dangerous lake conditions, you’ll pay a hefty fine.
The New Buffalo City Council has passed an ordinance that lets the small Lake Michigan city fine you $500 if you’re caught entering the water when the red flags are posted. That includes people on the beach or in boats or jet skis on the channel leading out to the lake.
New Buffalo Mayor John Humphrey said the city has always tried to give visitors as much freedom as possible, and it isn’t interested in being part of any “nanny state.” But he says last summer New Buffalo saw record crowds and some very bad decisions by visitors.
“We had a bucket of absurdity this summer with reckless behavior from our visitors,” Humphrey says.
That included people wrecking jet skis on the rocks. A person trying to swim in the channel. At one point, a city lifeguard had to save two small children whose mother let them swim during a red flag. A teenage lifeguard, who’s a strong, rescue-rated swimmer, had to be rescued by the Coast Guard after he saved the children because he had become exhausted.
“That was really what prompted it,” Humphrey said. “When we had a lifeguard that needed to be rescued from going to rescue people, we’re like, we have to step in to prevent this sort of behavior from escalating.”
Parents will be fined if their children under age 18 are caught, regardless if the parent is present.