There’s no better time to enjoy the Great Lakes State than in summer, especially for West Michigan lakeshore residents. This is the season to soak in the sun, explore the outdoors and revel in the area’s natural surroundings. One of our editors, Courtney Birchmeier, chatted with the lakeshore’s local experts about outdoor activities and safety.
Q. What are some water safety tips to remember this season?
A. We rent stand-up paddleboards and sit-on-top kayaks for use at the beach and Kalamazoo River, so safety is a top priority! Here are my top five safety tips:
1. Be aware of others around you in boats, kayaks, etc. and know who has the right of way at all times.
2. Swim Zones are for swimming — keep your kayaks, surf boards and SUPs far away from swimmers and always use your leash.
3. Wear your PFDs (personal floatation devices) where and when required by the Coast Guard.
4. Respect the water. Be aware of red-flag days and rip currents.
5. Know your limits and get off the water before you have had too much fun!
—Margo Mikolitis, co-owner of Just Add Water, Douglas
Q. Why is skateboarding/longboarding a good way to stay active during the summer season? How would you convince someone to give it a try?
A. Skateboarding and longboarding are both really good forms of exercise and a great way to strengthen your balance. They allow you to get outside to enjoy the fresh air and the sunshine while you’re moving. Just don’t forget knee pads, elbow pads and, most importantly, a helmet!
—Jill Hutchinson, co-owner of Buffalo Bob’s, Grand Haven
Q. What can Ottawa County residents do to help clean up/protect the area’s parks?
A. We have so many wonderful volunteers, from individuals to businesses, who help us with a variety of projects from removing invasive plants to monitoring their favorite trails — even checking in on our Eco Goats! If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer, or have a group you’d like to work with, we can find you a project or a park!
Another way to support parks is to protect and care for land outside of parks. Familiarize yourself with invasive plants like garlic mustard and when you see it, pull it! Consider planting a native garden or monarch weigh station at your home, office or local school to create more habitat for our local birds and butterflies. Everything you do to protect natural resources outside of parks truly makes a difference.
—Jessica VanGinhoven, communications specialist for Ottawa County Parks