Winnetka Park District Lakefront Safety

Winnetka, IL; June 6, 2023 — 

Summer is right around the corner, and the Winnetka Park District would like to remind the community of the importance of practicing safe, sensible, and considerate activities in and around the water. While beautiful, Lake Michigan and the lakefront are dynamic and require that we all educate ourselves about, pay attention to, and appreciate the natural gift we are given here in Winnetka. Please always keep water, beach, and pier safety in mind so that you, your family, and friends can enjoy our beaches.

Regardless of the time of year or the presence of Park District staff, all beach users, community members, and visitors are responsible for adhering to all beach rules, applicable laws, and Winnetka Park District policies. You can find beach and other rules posted: on signage at each beach (and painted on piers); in our ordinances; on our website; and in other places throughout the District.

We want to encourage fun and safe play for everyone in the community. However, horseplay activities – including but not limited to, distracting lifeguards, non-permitted use of facilities or property, jumping off structures or diving, etc. – are strictly prohibited. Submerged rocks, debris, and ever-changing sand and water depth make Lake Michigan an environment where engaging in such prohibited activities creates risk of serious injury or death—regardless of weather conditions. Never assume water depth or conditions, as Lake Michigan can change season to season, week to week, day to day, and even hour to hour.

Useful lake safety tips include the following, which highlight areas rather than comprehensively list all beach and other rules, applicable laws, and District policies. Please remember:

  1. There is no swimming, and the beach is closed when Winnetka Park District lifeguards are not on duty.
  2. Never swim alone.
  3. Do not dive or jump into Lake Michigan – this includes boats, piers, rocks, and other items. 
  4. Enter the water feet first and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  5. Monitor lake conditions and weather. Do not remain in the water when lake conditions are hazardous, or weather is severe.
  6. Waves and lake conditions can make the water cloudy or opaque. Always check for rocks or other obstructions and remember to always make yourself visible to others.
  7. Be mindful of heat hazard: drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, seek shade as needed, and take other steps to prevent heat stroke or other heat-related illnesses.
  8. Review, monitor and abide by posted policies, rules and information always (e.g., sign(s), flag(s), etc.). WPD staff utilize a flag system to advertise water status while the beach is guarded: Red Flag = water closed; Green Flag = water open.
  9. Abide by all directives of Park District staff, including lifeguards or management.
  10. If you see someone in trouble, call 911 and throw a lifesaving device or anything else that floats to the person in need. The Park District has installed well-marked yellow life rings/buoy stations at various locations throughout the lakefront.
  11. In any emergency, immediately call 911.

The Winnetka Park District is committed to the well-being of our community members and visitors, and we believe that taking comprehensive lakefront safety measures will create an environment where everyone can enjoy the lakefront to the fullest while feeling safe. You can find additional general water safety resources and natural water safety tips on American Red Cross’s website

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