Duluth Fire Dept. and DPD talk water safety, how students can initiate change
After a summer marked by unusually wet conditions, Duluth has experienced an increase in water-related accidents in the last two months.
“With higher rain levels this last summer we are seeing the rivers turn more aggressive, creating more uncertainty as to what is beneath the surface,” Duluth Fire Captain Brent Consie said. Consie operates out of Station One, the only station in Duluth to have its own rescue-specific engine.
Although currents have become unusually high and powerful, this is nothing new for the city of Duluth.
“People have been jumping and swimming at The Deeps for generations,” Consie said.
The Deeps is a frequented swimming spot on Amity Creek in Lester Park. While The Deeps have been a long-standing cause of accidents in Duluth, little has been done to legally prohibit people from jumping.
Officer Nick Lepak with the Duluth Police Department spoke of the laws and regulations inside Lester Park boundaries.
“On the railroad bridge below Superior Street there are posted trespassing signs, making it illegal to jump from the bridge,” Lepak said. “Other than the trespassing warnings, there are no city ordinances or state laws prohibiting jumping into the river.”
Without much for legal deterrence, accidents have the potential to happen every summer. Consie advocated for an abundance of warm weather alternatives that people can take advantage of.
“With a town built in the perfect environment for thrill seeking, we need to start drawing the line as to what is safe and what is not,” Consie said. “There are plenty of alternatives, such as mountain biking or hiking.”
Officer Lepak echoed Consie’s statements.
“There are better activities out there, with better structured response and safety mechanisms in place,” Lepak said.
Beyond alternatives, Consie talked about the community changing the tradition behind taking the jump, starting with students.
“We need to start artificially making common sense more common amongst the thrill-seeking community,” Consie said. “Students that are jumping and taking the risks are looked upon as role models by younger kids in the community. If they can start drawing the line, younger individuals will see that and hopefully follow their example.”
Officer Lepak said that even an experienced swimmer can be swept away, putting no one above nature’s laws.
“We’ve had great swimmers get carried away by the deceptively fast river,” Lepak said. “You never know what can be happening under the water.”
The Lester River flows through its namesake park