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Cooler water curbs park attendance

Matt DeYoung • Sep 11, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Grand Haven State Park Supervisor Matt Shaver says he doesn’t need to see any in-depth studies to know the Lake Michigan water was slightly cooler than normal this year.

He said it’s no secret that attendance at the popular state park is contingent upon the weather and water temps.  

“Overall, it was cooler than I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” said Shaver, who has worked at the Grand Haven State Park for six years. “But other than that, we had a good year. Cooler weather usually means fewer people — but all in all, we were pretty busy.”

Visitation numbers for 2017 haven’t been totaled yet, but Shaver expects them to be slightly down from last year, when nearly 2 million people visited the lakeside park.

“We’re usually between 1.5 (million) to 2 million, depending on the weather,” he noted.

Shaver said the park employees begin taking water temperature readings around Memorial Day and continue through Labor Day. He said the last reading was taken Sept. 5.

“It was about 60 degrees,” he said.

At what point do people stop swimming?

“There’s people out there swimming right now,” Shaver said Friday afternoon. “They’re still swimming. Typically, it’s around 60 degrees, but I see people out here in January going swimming. It all depends on what you enjoy. I wouldn’t be in the water right now.”

Great Lakes cooling sooner?

(AP) — Experts say the Great Lakes water temperatures may have started their yearly decline ahead of schedule.

George Leshkevich, a research scientist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, said each of the lakes is cooler than it was in late August last year.

"It seems like they're cooling. The cooling usually starts in September," Leshkevich said. “But, in just seeing the forecast for northern Michigan in the last week or so, night temperatures and frost risks will affect the water temperatures."

Lake Michigan seems to have been the least impacted, being only about 1 degree lower than last year, from 72 degrees to only about 71. Lake Superior was about 66 degrees last year in late August and about 63 this year.

Leshkevich found it odd the lakes were already cooling, as in previous years the temperatures would remain fairly steady into mid-September.

"At this point, though, it could still bounce back if we had some very hot, warm weather," he said. "But we would need at least a week or two of warm at this point to have an effect."

But Gillen said that's likely not going to happen.

"There's no signs of a substantial warm-up — that's for sure," he said.

The Great Lakes didn't freeze much at all in winter 2016-17, meaning the lakes had a jump-start on getting temperatures high and keeping them high, Leshkevich said.

"Winter wasn't that bad. There wasn't that much ice cover, meaning heating season would last longer," he said. "In 2014, the opposite happened — we had a hard winter where the lakes froze and they weren't able to absorb as much energy because the ice was there longer."

Leshkevich said he wasn't sure what this will mean for the next season, other than potentially shortening water recreation time on the Great Lakes, but circled back to air temperature as the likely culprit.

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