NMU Sponsors Rescue Station
NMU has joined the effort to promote safety along Marquette’s Lake Superior shoreline by contributing $1,000 to sponsor a rescue station at Picnic Rocks. The station is equipped with two personal flotation devices, a torpedo buoy and a life ring. Pictured are (from left) Marquette Fire Chief Tom Belt, NMU President Les Wong and Eric Smith (Broadcast and A/V Services), who serves as vice chair of the Marquette Waterfront Safety Task Force.
There are three rescue stations at unguarded beaches along Lakeshore Boulevard. The university decided to support the one at Picnic Rocks, at the east end of Fair Avenue, because the site is popular with NMU students and also one of the most treacherous. Swimmers often confront strong rip currents as they attempt to reach the rocks that appear deceptively close to shore. There have been several drownings in recent years, some involving NMU students. A metal memorial sculpture depicting an angel was erected at the edge of the adjacent park after two students died on the same day in 2005.
“As the task force put cost estimates together, it was clear financial support was needed,” Smith said. “NMU stepped up to show people that the university is actively engaged in water safety and others came forward as well. When you combine resources, you can do big projects. Obviously the hope is that people will swim where there are lifeguards, but recognizing that isn’t always the case, the rescue stations provide resources that people can use to help someone who may get into trouble.”
The NMU rescue station was an Eagle Scout project for Marquette high school student Isaac Hermann. The $1,000 university contribution covers construction materials, equipment and maintenance for two years.
Wong said there has been a noticeable increase in public awareness of the potential dangers of rip currents. Marquette Fire Chief Tom Belt agreed, saying one of the city’s goals “is to create a culture of beachfront safety.” In an effort to reinforce the message among incoming NMU students, Smith said the National Weather Service and Marquette Fire Department participated in Fall Fest on the first day of classes.
“There was a fire truck and rescue equipment on display, which helped spark the discussion, particularly with freshmen,” Smith said. “We distributed more than 150 brochures and talked to a number of students about the need to respect Lake Superior while also appreciating her beauty. It was a good opportunity to promote safety in a visible way and hopefully reach more students.”
Aside from the rescue station, other steps to promote safety at Picnic Rocks include a colored flag advisory system to indicate swimming conditions, four white bouys to mark the restricted safe swimming area and a rip current meter deployed 18 feet underwater. “It’s a Doppler radar unit and it’s amazing how strong the current has been—up to five miles per hour,” Belt said.
NMU students conducted research on different meters, comparing benefits and costs, then reported their findings to the National Weather Service and the City of Marquette. The current meter selected reports real-time data on water temperature, wave height, current speed and atmospheric pressure. It is only operational during the swimming season and its readings can be monitored online.