MANISTEE — The public is invited to celebrate the grand opening of the newly installed Life Vest Loaner Stations spread throughout Manistee County. The grand opening celebration will take place at 3:30 p.m. Friday, June 23 at Fifth Avenue Beach in Manistee. The development of these stations is thanks to the Manistee Area Leadership Program, a program under the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce.

The leadership program participants have dedicated the last nine months to the development of this project with support from many local sponsors. There will be a total of seven stations installed at popular beach locations around Manistee County:

• Arcadia public beach in Arcadia Township;

• Bar Lake public access in Manistee Township;

• Fifth Avenue Beach in the City of Manistee;

• First Street Beach in the City of Manistee;

• Hopkins Park in the Village of Bear Lake;

• Magoon Creek Natural Area in Filer Township;

• Onekama Village Park in the Village of Onekama.

The project came to fruition after the leadership class met with the U.S. Coast Guard Manistee Station in October 2022 for Natural Resources Day.

Inspired by Coast Guard statistics of rescue cases and responses on Lake Michigan, the group identified a need for additional water safety measures in the community and began brainstorming what could be done to address this need.

Upon researching the success of other communities that implemented life vest loaner stations, the group decided to take on the project of implementing the concept in Manistee County. The group’s primary goal of the project is to help educate the community on water safety while also helping to make water recreation safe and accessible for all.

The life vest loaner stations will be permanent structures containing varying sizes of life vests from infant to adult. The stations will work on the honor system. Borrow a life vest and return it when done.