Leelanau News and Events

City Of Frankfort Launches Weather Warning System At Pier Using Grant From The Grand Traverse Band

By Emily Tyra | March 26, 2021

The City of Frankfort is launching a pilot program of warning lights at the North Breakwater Lighthouse pier to advise people of dangerous weather conditions. It is funded through a $12,000 grant from the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

City Superintendent Joshua Mills tells the Leelanau Ticker, “We are working with SwimSmart on a warning system that will involve two solar powered lights that are connected to the weather service via cellular or possibly through a WiFi system. As forecasts intensify a red light will be displayed. The system can be manually set as well, via remote or onsite.”

In addition to a lighted system — which updates instantly based on the National Weather Service’s beach hazards forecast — the city will be installing enhanced signage warning of the dangers of walking on the federally owned breakwall during inclement weather and/or on windy days when waves are splashing over the pier.

Mills says, “Enhancing the safety of our beach area and breakwall is always a goal of our community,” adding that there is warning signage now, and life rings on the breakwall and on shore. “We’ve often thought about a flag system, but dedicating staff was always a concern. We always wondered about an automated system to better warn beachgoers and that need is being met by SwimSmart.” 

The system was created as a startup between Michigan Tech graduate student Jacob Soter and assistant professor Andrew Barnard. They, along with other Michigan Tech engineering grad students, worked with Great Lakes Water Safety Consortium — a group of first responders, community leaders, park rangers, research scientists, lifeguards, meteorologists, parents, and survivors — looking for real world solutions to help prevent drowning in the Great Lakes. 

The technology’s purchase and installation will be funded through a Grand Traverse Band (GTB) grant. Twice each year, the GTB sets aside 2 percent of its video gaming revenue to allocate to local units of government for services provided to the tribes and for impacts associated with the existence and location of the tribal casino in its vicinity.

“The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians are a tremendous asset to our region,” says Mills. “The 2 percent grant program provides essential funding to enhance the critical needs of our community.”

During the peak of the summer, the Frankfort beach and downtown see a surge of visitors. Mills says, “On the 4th of July, pre-pandemic, it is estimated that we have 10,000 people on our beach.”

Photo by Will Wilson on Unsplash

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