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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Lakeshore) is partnering with area government agencies and private organizations to host a free water adventure expo on Saturday, June 17, 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., at Platte Point at the end of Lake Michigan Road.
The “Splash into Summer: Water Adventure Expo” will include water play safety demonstrations, skills practice, exhibits, and more. The expo is an event for adults and kids who like to swim or paddle in rivers, inland lakes, or Lake Michigan. Kayak and stand up paddleboard (SUP) demonstrations, mock capsize/self-rescue exercises, and life jacket fitting are among the event offerings. Stations will also be set up for weather and rip current recognition, gear checklists, and drowning survival strategies. Face painting and scavenger hunts for kids will round out the expo. Food trucks will be onsite or visitors may pack a picnic lunch.
The event is hosted by Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, in partnership with the American Canoe Association-Michigan Chapter, Benzie County Emergency Medical Services, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project (GLSRP), Lake Township Park, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Sea Grant, National Weather Service, Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, with funding support from the Friends of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The event will be held at the mouth of the Platte River byheading west off of M-22 on Lake Michigan Road at the southern end of the park. The event is free. For more information, contact Sue Jennings at 231-326-4751.
“The event is intended to celebrate safe water play and smart adventuring,” said Superintendent Scott Tucker. “As the water warms up and becomes more inviting in early summer, this event will be a great opportunity to develop skills and remind everyone about water safety and the importance of wearing a life jacket. It is essential to know how to respond if you find yourself in an unplanned out-of-boat experience or a rip current.”
Data collected by GLSRP accounted for 46 drownings in Lake Michigan last year. Between 2010-2016, 537 people have drowned in the Great Lakes. Each day in the U.S., 10 people die from drowning; two of those are children under the age of 14, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. “Unfortunately, water safety and drowning survival is not common sense,” Dave Benjamin, Executive Director of GLSRP observed. “Yet it’s not rocket science either. There is information available that is simple to remember—it just is not being efficiently or effectively delivered.”
The GLSRP teaches techniques for getting out of rip currents and recognizing drowning, and will be providing several clinics at the June expo. Park Biologist and Event Coordinator Sue Jennings says “These incidents are largely preventable. Education and awareness, along with wearing a life jacket, are keys to saving lives.”
Planning for the event began last fall, following the season’s third drowning within the National Lakeshore. Jennings reached out to the GLSRP, U.S. Coast Guard, and other agencies involved in public awareness and drowning prevention to gauge interest in helping to increase awareness about this growing epidemic.
“The enthusiasm for planning an event was astounding,” said Jennings. Michael Gray, State Director of the American Canoe Association and a certified instructor trainer, was glad to jump aboard. With the number of drownings in the Great Lakes spiking and more people venturing out into the lakes, Gray knows it could be another bad year for drownings without an aggressive public education effort. Wearing a properly fitted life jacket and knowing how to select the right craft for your water sports are musts for a safe water sport season.”
Please visit www.nps.gov/slbe/planyourvisit/calendar.htm to view the demonstration and skills practice schedule of events. For further information about the National Lakeshore, you may also go to www.nps.gov/slbe. Additionally, check out their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbdnl, Twitter site at www.twitter.com/sleepingbearnps, and Instagram at www.instagram.com/sleepingbearnps.