The City of Frankfort will be participating in a new program aimed at preventing tragedies at Frankfort Beach this summer.
“Every year we reassess the safety need associated with our Lake Michigan beach and the federally owned break water,” said City Superintendent Joshua Mills. “It’s always been a component of whether we do a flag system or some other type of monitoring system, and it always fell back on staffing and the staffing needs.”
The pilot program is called . This program uses use cellular networks and up-to-the-minute weather data to update lights installed at the beach or pier.
“As severe weather approaches, we would have immediate notice that would trigger a light to go on that would warn people, and there would be signage associated with it for the different levels of lights there would be,” said Mills. “There would be green for good, amber for caution, and red for absolutely stay off the break wall.”
The city received a $12,000 grant from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians to fund this pilot program.
“The weather can turn at any moment,” said Mills. “It can create a safe environment to an unsafe environment in an instant. We just want to better educate our community and our guests and our visitors.”
According the Frankfort Police Department and Benzie County Central Dispatch, between 2018 and 2020, nine people have been swept off the Frankfort Pier and survived, while three people have drowned.
The city hopes with the installation of SwimSmart, it will help educate people on the dangers of coming out to the water when it’s not safe.
“Our local base has a really good knowledge and awareness of the dangers associated with Lake Michigan,” said Mills. “Our guests and visitors, we just got to do a better job educating them.”
Frankfort Beach will be getting two lights, one stationed at the base of the pier and one at the entrance to the beach.
Mills said this pilot program is the first step to educating their visitors on water safety.
“The educational component of beach safety and pier safety is an ongoing task,” said Mills. “We want to develop videos that could be viewed on our local hotel lodging establishments, short term rental units, just to better serve and educate people.”
The SwimSmart lights will be installed on the Frankfort Beach in May.