Voice of the People
In our short time of living here at Porter Beach, Indiana, we have now
been witness to three avoidable drownings at National Lakeshore beaches. All
three happened on beautiful sunny days with inviting waves.
But as those of us who live here know, and as the National Park Service and
Indiana Dunes State Park know full well, danger lurked. Strong winds from the
north were ripe for creating deadly rip currents. Last Saturday, August 2,
2008, at the State Park just east of Porter Beach, their PA system was
warning, “The beach will probably be closed all day today due to the
dangerous conditions with the possibility of rip currents.”
In all three incidents, vacationing families from Chicago were among those
who came to the State Park to enjoy the day. Finding the beach there closed,
they simply went east or west to National Park beaches that are unmanned, so
not closed to swimming.
Some would say, “What’s with those families to allow their kids to swim when
it is dangerous?” It is so easy to blame the victims. But those three
families were among the hundreds of others that were also out in the waves
We locals may know the danger signals; indeed we, and as we learned later,
many of our neighbors, had said prayers last Saturday morning that disaster
would not strike again. But the danger is a mystery to most of the visiting
families. These are the very people the National Lakeshore targets to come
and enjoy the beach, the ones for whom they have added parking and toilet
facilities here at Porter Beach in the last few years.
Yet the National Park System does little to protect them. We are offended by
the National Park personnel glad-handing with the press here to witness yet
another drowning, washing their hands of any responsibility with cavalier
statements, “We post warnings.” Sure, a sign is up all summer, regardless of
its relevance any particular day, with a generic warning.
We understand that full time lifeguards are not practical. But a system needs
to be in place for the National Park to step up and do what is necessary to
close its six unpatrolled beaches when there are known dangers. And do not
tell us “It’s too expensive.” The latest search “Included the use of three
helicopters, seven boats, up to 60 divers from several agencies and more than
100 people, according to police.” How expensive is that?
They owe this much to the memory of Juan Ruiz, 15, DaVante Jackson, 14, and
Raphael Palomar, 13. Our hearts go out to their families.
Roger and Stephanie Carnell