Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

September 7, 2013

Another View: Solar-powered buoys make sense

Let’s light up the night

Sure, the buoys do a fine job of marking the safe paths through what can be a treacherous stretch of the Grand River from where it empties into Lake Michigan all the way upstream past Riverside Park and beyond.

There’s an easy little alliteration to help you remember how to handle the red and green buoys you encounter — red, right, return. When you’re returning from the Big Lake toward where you launched, keep the red buoys to your right.

But what happens when you’re heading back to your launching spot after dark, and those red and green buoys are swallowed up by the gloom? You should have an adequate spotlight involved, and the reflectors on the navigational markers should help you keep your course.

But it could be easier.

Some of the buoys in the channel between Lake Michigan and East Grand River Park are topped with solar-powered lights. This begs the question: Why aren’t all buoys — especially in high-traffic areas such as the busy stretch from the mouth of Spring Lake out to Lake Michigan — topped with these lights?

There’s plenty to worry about when boating in the dark, including keeping an eye out for unlit vessels and watching for floating debris. Boaters shouldn’t have to work to see the buoys marking safe passage through a river with plenty of shallow water.

Topping these buoys with solar lights seems like a fairly inexpensive yet efficient way to make navigating our waterways after dark a little bit safer.

Lights such as these vary in price from $200 up to more than $1,000, depending on the size and the distance at which they can be seen.

For this application, it would seem that a lower-priced option would suffice, and the benefits this adds to our popular waterway would far outweigh the cost.

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