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Electronic, web-enabled beach warning system takes Grand Haven State Park beach safety to the next level

Representatives from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Parks and Recreation Division, SwimSmart and the city of Grand Haven, community members and other stakeholders gathered Monday at a ribbon-cutting at Grand Haven State Park to formally unveil a new electronic beach safety notification system.

The new system features 12 electronic and web-enabled towers, demonstrating the DNR’s ongoing commitment to enhancing public safety and emergency response times at this popular state park.

Grand Haven State Park is among the state’s most well-known beach destinations – in fact, earlier this year it was listed in Travel and Leisure’s top 25 beaches in the nation – but it is critical that visitors respect the strong, powerful waters of Lake Michigan and are aware of and prepared for rapidly changing conditions.

"To boost safety at popular Great Lakes state park beaches, SwimSmart towers will help provide real-time warnings to beachgoers," said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. "This innovative, technology-based system features two types of towers visible along the Grand Haven swim beach, marking the first state park location for this initiative."

Eight orange towers, located on the beach, feature an easy-to-understand electronic light display that mimics the familiar double-red, red, yellow and green flag system visitors are used to seeing on the beach. Additionally, life rings are stationed at each tower. If one of the rings is accessed to aid in helping someone in the water, 911 and park rangers will simultaneously be contacted. The towers can play prerecorded messages to alert users to changing conditions, emergencies and other important information.

The four blue light towers, located along the sidewalk, feature a readily accessible emergency phone that park staff and visitors can press to trigger an immediate emergency response. The blue light towers are equipped with a higher-power loudspeaker, video monitoring system and a direct line to the Ottawa County 911 center. The loudspeaker system will work in conjunction with the prerecorded messages of the orange beach towers and allow park staff to broadcast live messages.

The $570,000 project was made possible with a $200,000 grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the balance covered through DNR Parks and Recreation capital outlay funds.

The products were invented, developed and installed by Michigan-based SwimSmart, an innovative technology company whose products are created to empower beachgoing families and patrons to make informed decisions when it comes to water recreation.

The DNR will leave the current flagpoles in place but will only fly the flags if the new system goes down due to loss of electricity or other reasons.

“This partnership with the Michigan DNR brings us one step closer to realizing our mission of preventing the next water emergency from happening,” said Jacob Soter, founder and CEO of SwimSmart. “We share the DNR’s commitment to public safety, and are excited to provide this resource to the countless families who will be visiting Grand Haven State Park this summer and for years to come.”

"The safety of our visitors on the Great Lakes is our top priority," said Pat Whalen, district supervisor for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. "That's why we continually evaluate and refine beach safety protocols at state parks throughout the year."

For example, the DNR introduced double-red warning flags at all state-designated swim beaches along the Great Lakes in Michigan state parks in 2022. When double-red flags are present, beachgoers are not allowed to enter the water from the beach.

Visit for tips and information on safely visiting the Great Lakes, including state-designated swim beach locations, the beach flag warning system, Great Lakes currents (and how to escape them) and more.

For more information, contact Andrew LundBorg, park supervisor, at 616-307-0667 and or Pat Whalen, PRD district supervisor, at 269-838-1196 or

Note to editors: Accompanying photos are available below for download. All photos courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

  • SwimSmart demo: Jacob Soter, founder and CEO of SwimSmart, explains how the electronic light displays work on one of the newly installed orange towers at the Grand Haven State Park beach. The LED lights replicate the traditional flag system (double-red, red, yellow and green) for water conditions, and the tower contacts 911 dispatch center in the event of an emergency.
  • SwimSmart blue light tower: One of the towers located along the beach sidewalk at Grand Haven State Park. Each tower features two-way communication with a 911 dispatcher, loudspeaker broadcasting and video monitoring for water emergencies and park security.
  • Blue light tower – help: The easy-to-use help button and speaker on the blue light towers that staff and the public can use to summon emergency assistance from the Grand Haven State Park beach sidewalk.
  • Orange light tower menu: Signage on the orange towers, now installed at the Grand Haven State Park beach, shows each light color with corresponding safety category.