2020 Lake Michigan Beach Update

by | May 19, 2020 | Accessibility, COVID, Lake Michigan Coastal Greenway, Parks Department

For the 2021 Lake Michigan update, please visit: https://news.miottawa.org/2021-lake-michigan-beach-update/

Update#4 – June 5, 2020

2020 has been a year like none other. Between COVID and record-high water levels, your visit to the beach will be different than in years past. In the following email we have included information about:

  • Vehicle permits
  • Parking
  • Restrooms
  • Dogs
  • Beach etiquette

Lake Michigan Beach Park – Video Update

If you haven’t visited Lake Michigan in a while, our latest video update will give you an idea of the size of the beaches and how we are managing the continuously rising water levels.


Vehicle Permits

A motor vehicle permit (daily or annual) is required Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day at:

  • North Beach Park
  • Olive Shores
  • Kirk Park
  • Rosy Mound Natural Area
  • Tunnel Park
  • Riverside Park boat launch

Without one, you will be ticketed. Learn more about pricing and where you can purchase your pass hereMichigan State Parks Recreation Passport is not valid at Ottawa County Parks properties. 


Parking will be deliberately limited at all lakeshore parks due to smaller-than-usual beaches. You will be ticketed/cited for parking in an area that is not a designated parking spot or in any area marked No Parking. This includes roadside and parallel parking.  You may see “open” spots that have been blocked off, this was done intentionally to not overcrowd the beaches. Limited parking is temporary.


All restrooms are open


The Kirk Park Dog Beach has re-opened with limited hours. Dogs are now permitted daily between the hours of 7-10 am and 7-10 pm. If dogs are not at the dog beach, they are required to be leashed (10’ max) and under control at all times. This includes walking to and from the beach. Dogs are only allowed at the park during dog beach hours.

Beach Etiquette

Beaches are smaller this year than they have been in the last two decades. Prepare yourself for less room on the beach to spread out. With COVID being a concern in our community, smaller beaches have the potential to become more problematic. In addition to normal beach etiquette (e.g. no smoking, no loud music, no kicking or throwing sand at other beach goers), we have put together a list of things to keep in mind while visiting the beach:

  • Please keep six feet from other park users
  • Park staff cannot enforce social distancing – for serious complaints, you may contact: StayHomeStaySafeComplaints@miOttawa.org
  • Stay on park property (you can walk along the lakeshore, but be sure to set up your towel on park property, not the neighbor’s property – there are signs marking the end of park property on the beach)
  • Keep off the dune, do not make new trails or spots to lay your towel in the dune grass
  • Do not dig in to the sand cliff, falling sand can be extremely dangerous
  • Make sure to check our website before your visit in case of any changes or closures due to COVID or high water

Peak beach times are 11 am-1 pm every day, but especially on the weekends. To avoid the park during busier times, consider an early morning visit or an evening visit.

We know that this has been a time of heightened anxiety and frustration.

Please be kind to each other and to parks staff during your visit. 


Original post from March 2, 2020

As you are surely aware, the water level on Lake Michigan is extremely high. This will continue to affect our lake shore parks by drastically reducing the size of our beaches, eroding dunes (and trails), limiting special uses, and in some cases, removal of wood stairs and boardwalks.

We are committed to to providing safe beach access to all of our Lake Michigan properties, even under trying conditions. Here are things to keep in mind as you plan a visit to the beach this coming summer:

  • Trails may be closed! In some places, dune erosion has affected trails and boardwalks. Be sure to read posted signs when you arrive at these parks to see if there are any new closures.
  • With the closure of the Kirk Park Dog Beach stairs and the increasingly shrinking beach, we are going to do our best to balance both pet owners and sun bathers. Pet owners can use the north stairs to get to the dog beach and should follow signs and fencing south. Dogs must remain on-leash until you reach the dog beach area.
  • Visitors should not dig into or sit directly on or under the sand cliffs at the beach. Collapsing sand can be very dangerous.
  • Rental facilities at Tunnel Park, Kirk Park, and North Beach Park will still be available.
  • Please be respectful to each other and to neighbors. Make room for other beach goers and be mindful that your spot in the sun is on park property, not private property.

Vehicle permits will still be required Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day. Revenue from these permits will help support restoration of these properties when the water levels return to normal. Thank you for considering an annual or daily pass, even if the conditions are not optimal. You can purchase your Annual Motor Vehicle Permit online through May 15, 2020.

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