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No swim zone: Request for buoys in access area along Lake Mitchell falls short

North Ohlman Lake Mitchell access.jpg
The North Ohlman Access Area at Lake Mitchell is pictured here June 15, 2020. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Concerns regarding children being potentially hit by watercrafts while swimming in an access area of Lake Mitchell prompted an anonymous request asking the city to place caution buoys in the area.

But that won't be happening because the area is not a space for swimming, a city panel said last week.

The lake access area near the corner of North Ohlman Street and Harmon Drive on the west side of the lake includes a small sandy shoreline for swimmers and lake goers. The matter was discussed at during Thursday's Mitchell Parks and Recreation Board meeting.

However, Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Powell pointed out the North Ohlman access area is not considered a public beach, which means buoys are not required to be placed in the water. That information led the board to shy away from making a motion at Powell’s request, and the matter never went to a vote due to a lack of motion.

“Even though there is a small sandy beach there, it’s considered an access area. When we call it a beach, we have to abide state standards, and I don’t recommended we approve this because we would have to look at including buoys at every access area where we people swim in the lake,” Powell said, noting it would likely have to be reclassified as a public beach for the buoys to be placed in the area.

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Although the request didn’t receive support, board member Andy Jerke said the concern is valid, noting he's witnessed kids swimming beyond the shallow area into the lake, making it difficult for boats and watercrafts to clearly see swimmers.

"It is a hazard, because I have seen kids swim pretty far out there and boats will go whipping by," Jerke said. "However, I understand the difference between access areas and public beaches."

Board President Brian Johnson backed the decision to steer clear of approving the addition of buoys in the area due to the protocol the city abides by in regards to public beaches and access areas.

“Just because the public thinks it’s a beach does not make it a beach,” Johnson said.

Lake Buoy
The Mitchell Parks and Recreation Board discussed a request to put swimming area buoys in the Lake Mitchell access area near the end point of North Ohlman Street. Ultimately, the request was denied due to the requirements the city would have to follow for a beach area to be marked. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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