Should the Army Corps of Engineers block access to the pier when conditions are dangerous, such as when a red flag is flown?


Creed Bratton

Red Flag days? Stupid.Imagine all the kids who will swim around the fence, then just walk to the end of the pier after they hop back up. Plus we've all seen "red flag" days where that lake is flat as can be with no waves on a really nice summer day. Not like the riptide is going to jump from the lake onto the pier and drag everyone down back into the water with it. How about people just use a little common sense?

Barry Soetoro

No, continue to let Mr. Darwin do his job...


You know who winds up dead? Teenagers. Kids. Yes, they should know better. But here's the thing: they don't. They sometimes make poor decisions, because they're young and inexperienced, and because their brains don't have strong impulse control, and because they don't want to look weak in front of their peers. So, somebody dies.

Locking the gate might not stop them, but it might. If it saves some parents from having to bury their children at minimum inconvenience to the rest of us, I'm all for it.

We can disagree about the nanny state, and the extent to which people are responsible for their own choices, but I would at least appreciate you not being quite so cavalier about the deaths of (mostly young) people.


I can honestly say that I knew nearly 20 peers who passed on before we were 25-years-old. (Drunk driving, pinned under a waterfall, diving into shallow water, hydroplaning into a garbage truck, Russian roulette, hypothermia, leaning out of a car and being crushed, suicide, during surgery, choking on vomit...)

Never once did I say, "Boy if only the grown-ups had protected us more" . Young people are more likely to die. Maybe the night that you protect them from the pier they decide to go drag-racing because there is nothing else to do. Or they climb the fence and die out on the pier because nobody else was out there to see them fall in.


Barry has a point, down south we used to say natural thinning of the herd was almost always prefaced by "Hey guys check this out". There is always someone dumb enough…always!


It's pretty simple, on red flag days, no coast guard.
You go out, and you fall in, you die or self rescue.
Thanks for playing!


Surfers need the pier when waves are up!

Former Grandhavenite

Exactly! Without an assist from the pier on days when it's big out there, I'd only be good for a few rides before getting exhausted. Paddling all the way out from shore to where I usually like to start beyond the first lighthouse for each ride would give about 90 seconds of ride time for every 10-15 minutes of swimming like a madman. I'd rather just hop out of the water and walk out to just beyond wherever it's breaking at the moment.

Former Grandhavenite

As any local surfer knows, every day with surfable conditions is also a "red flag day". I have no data to back this up, but I'm pretty sure the proportion of red flag days has steadily increased over the years. I remember times in the late 80's and early 90's when big swells would be breaking out well beyond the tall lighthouse and there would only be a yellow flag. Of course it's better to err on the side of caution and tell people that it's MORE dangerous than it actually is, but it seems like nowadays any visible movement of the water gets an automatic yellow flag. If you can see actual breaks with white foam more than 50 feet off the beach a red flag is almost a given. As a kid, before the days of and my friends and I would actually call the state park on any day with a decent west or southwest wind and ask what color the flag was, with red being the best of course. Nowadays the standards have been "dumbed down" to the point that you probably have a better chance of seeing a red flag at GH State Park than you would at Lenin's tomb. At some point they risk actually reducing the safety level out there by crying wolf all the time about how 'dangerous' those 1.5 to 2 foot waves are because people will stop taking it seriously.

Taking any steps to physically block access to the pier or keep people out would be suicidal in terms of exposure to lawsuits. As soon as you build a fence, someone will climb over it. As soon as you install a lockable gate you can be sure that someone will forget to lock it one night. It's also a huge legal risk to take on the responsibility of picking and choosing which days it should be open and which days it should be closed. Obviously you're going to make the wrong call at some point, and from that point forward the lock will become known as Exhibit A for the next several years of litigation.

One easy thing they could do would be to add a sign with a simple diagram and a couple sentences of explanation about rip currents and how to escape them (swim to the side rather than directly against the current) since it's probably the biggest danger out there and the average person isn't going to be familiar with them.


If the Corp were to take the responsibility for locking the pier they would open themselves up to the liability. Plus you'd p-off the fishermen, et al who are savvy enough to know where to they can get-away-with going.
Leave it the way it is. I'm fed up with all of the hand holding we do in this culture.
If you can't take the time to teach your teenagers about what is really dangerous in this world and when they can not afford to be a mindless sheep, it is your fault.


Additional thought: A red-flag day doesn't necessarily mean dangerous conditions on the south pier, if say the weather is coming out of the North/northwest.


Good point, except if there is one constant, it is that there is no consistency with wind direction along the lakeshore. A stiff breeze coming from the North/Northwest can shift in a matter of minutes to the South/Southwest. Easterly winds generally are no problem.

Even though there has been incredible improvement at the Pier over the years in educating and equiping the public with public service signs, memorials, and life saving equipment - thanks to Vicki Cech and other volunteers - I don't think it would be overkill to place a large sign at the entrance of the Pier with a bold warning on red flag days. People could walk around it if they insist, but it would be yet another attention-getting device to slow people down and think twice before walking way out to the end of the pier.

Grand Haven has enjoyed increases in tourist traffic over the years - many of these people who come into town to enjoy the boardwalk and pier have no real idea of how dangerous it can be.

Barry Soetoro

"...many of these people who come into town to enjoy the boardwalk and pier have no real idea of how dangerous it can be."

Maybe it's intuitive from having lived here but for me the give away is when the waves are washing over the breakwall. That's always a no-go for Barry S.


Oh, I agree with that. It seems that most people who die on the lake are mid-state, flatlanders or inner-city folks who just wander out into nature in wide-eyed wonder, without understanding that they are facing actual NATURE.
I think you red-flag/sign idea is a good compromise.


No, they should not. There are always going to be some people who make poor choices.
The dangers that are present when the waves are large and crashing into the Pier. Are clear to see when a person is walking on the Pier. But people pay no attention. People get surprised when they get their shoes soaking wet by water running over the Pier. Even though they walked right into it. People don't seem to be able to use their brains anymore and figure out things for themselves. They seem oblivious to what's going on around them. A sign posted at the start of the Catwalk saying " Large waves can, and will wash you off the Pier" might help the uninformed. It couldn't hurt.


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