Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

June 4, 2014

Editorial: County must be proactive about North Twin danger

All the warning signs, roped-off swim areas, swim rings and emergency phones on the planet can’t prevent every drowning.

But not making them available can’t be an option.

We’re drawn to the water in northern Michigan with its pristine inland lakes, Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. They’re hard to resist, even when they’re dangerous.

But some in the upside-down world of liability law argue it may be better to take no preventative efforts. To hear them tell it, warning signs and rescue equipment can give would-be swimmers a false sense of security that actually encourages them to take risks they should never take.

Last year the county roped off a designated swimming area and installed safety equipment, an emergency phone and added warning signs around North Twin Lake in Twin Lakes Park after the third drowning there in four years.

Owen Williamson, 17, drowned May 31 last year while swimming with friends. The county installed the signs and safety equipment soon thereafter.

On the day before the one-year anniversary of Williamson’s death, however, there were no warning signs or safety equipment in sight at North Twin.

County Parks and Recreation Director Jason Jones said his department and the county’s facilities department lacked the resources needed to install safety equipment any earlier.

“We’ve been trying to get it out there as quick as we can, and our facilities staff is actually working overtime to be out there tomorrow,” Jones said Friday.

That’s unacceptable and can’t be simply chalked up to a busy schedule. If workers were putting in overtime to get the work done last weekend, they could have put in the overtime last month.

County Administrator Dave Benda called Jones the previous day to talk about getting the safety equipment installed for the summer.

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