Marine patrol ready for Torch Fest, summer crowds

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

As in the past, a large crowd is expected to descend on Torch Lake's well-known sandbar at the south end of the lake during the Fourth of July holiday and weekend. Although gatherings in recent years have been smaller and more regulated, law enforcement agencies have continued to focus staff and personnel on the area to ensure the annual celebration remains safe and legal.

REGION – Warmer weather has finally arrived, and with the long-awaited appearance of summer, and another "Torch Fest" celebration at the south end of Torch Lake, both the Antrim County Marine Patrol and Kalkaska County Sheriff's Office, along with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is ready to ensure everyone stays safe while having a good time on area lakes.

"As we have had in past years, I have eight marine officers working this summer," said Antrim County Outdoor Recreation Officer Scott Boni last week. "Three officers have returned from last year, and we have five new officers."

Those officers have been on Antrim County's lakes since Memorial Day, but will begin to concentrate on Torch Lake this week.

"On July 2, we'll be setting up the temporary docks we use for our boats during Torch Fest," said Boni. "On July 3 we'll all start a week of very long days, with all officers on duty from early in the morning until late at night."

Two boats will concentrate solely on Torch Lake, with a third boat moving back and forth between Torch Lake and Elk Lake, Boni said. Those boats will also be responsible for doing periodic checks of the north end of Torch, Clam Lake, Grass River, and Lake Bellaire.

A fourth boat will be located on Intermediate Lake, doing periodic checks of Hanley Lake, Benway Lake, Wilson Lake, and Ellsworth Lake.

Although the much-touted "Torch Fest" gathering of hundreds of boats and holiday celebrants has been much more controlled in recent years, Kalkaska County will also once again also have a strong presence on the waters of Torch Lake, as well as other bodies of water in Kalkaska County, over the Fourth of July weekend.

"This will again provide a strong presence of law enforcement on the water and on the shore to ensure the safety of all the visitors to the Torch Lake Area," said Kalkaska County Sheriff Pat Whiteford. "We will also have patrols on the other lakes in Kalkaska County over the holiday weekend, and throughout the summer to promote safety on all of our waterways."

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