Pier jumping ban debated in Berrien County

It’s a recreational activity that has a notorious reputation.

Now some Berrien County Commissioners have proposed a ban on pier jumping.

Jumping off the concrete pier in St. Joseph was common today. The waters were calm and the jumpers suffered no harmful consequences.

Less than a year ago, the situation was quite different.
That’s when the last pier jumping death took place in St. Joseph, on a day when the weather and waves were hazardous.

“We've had 13-drownings off the north and south pier in the last 22 years, four at least are attributed to pier jumping,” said Randy Rood, the Berrien County Parks Director. “The most recent was last June 20th, David Lambert of Elkhart, Indiana.”

On the same day of the Lambert incident, a second pier jumper got into trouble in the water. He survived, thanks to a dramatic rescue lead by a civilian.

“This is a life threatening thing,” said Berrien County Commissioner Jeanette Leahey. “When you jump off that pier, you are taking your life, you are actually, have the possibility of losing your life.”

Commissioner Bob Wooley also supports the proposed ordinance. “We also have to take into account the efforts of our law enforcement people who are pulling people out of the water that are in danger: could they get knocked into the concrete and get in trouble themselves?”

Some of the people jumping off the pier today saw the proposal as an over reaction to the situation.

“I think that that's stupid it should only be for people that are out of town cause those are the only people that drown out here, honestly,” said Jocelyn Sarno of Coloma.

Ross Bryan of St. Joseph also opposed the idea of a ban on pier jumping. “I think you just got to know when to jump, you have to have some common sense, and some people don’t have the common sense.”

Commissioner Leahey was direct in her response: “This is not over reacting this is an absolute necessity. If these kids think this is a joke or an over reaction, they should contact the family of the kid who died last summer.”

A public hearing on the proposed pier jumping ban will likely be scheduled for June 26th.

The city of South Haven recently imposed its own ban on pier jumping.

The Berrien County proposal would also ban jumping off the New Buffalo Rock Breakwater.

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