SOLON– To improve overall beach safety, officials at Lake Macbride State Park have been restricting the number of vehicles and visitors to the beach area on days with a forecast high temperature of 80 degrees or above.
On days with the high temperature expected to exceed 80 degrees, vehicles destined for the beach parking lot, on the park’s north side, may be turned away when the 240-space beach parking lot is full. The move is to allow safe traffic movement and to reduce severe beach congestion at the park, located five miles west of Solon.
“We have been turning away beach-goers on several weekends already this season,” explained Macbride Park Ranger Gwen Prentice. “Up to 1,000 people have been utilizing the beach, concession area and outlying picnic sites. Traffic tie-ups, illegal parking and incidents of misconduct have risen with the stream of traffic pouring into the beach area.”
Park Manager Ron Puettmann said park officials actually began enforcing the restrictions last year, when there was not enough parking for both beach goers and lodge users.
“We ran into one situation where people were parking where they should not have been, and it becomes a dangerous situation when we can’t get emergency vehicles in and out.
“This year has been busier than ever– even busier than last year. Every weekend since Memorial Day, we have had to turn people away. It’s becoming a big concern and we want to make sure we are keeping everyone safe.”
Puettman said he and Prentice have been monitoring the parking lot, and notifying people as they arrive if the parking lot is full.
“Most people have been very accommodating,” Puettman said. “It’s surprising. People do want to come out and enjoy the beach and recreation facilities, especially when they come with their kids, but most people have been very good about it.”
The move allows park officials to keep access lanes open for emergency vehicles and provide adequate parking space for other north side use areas, such as the campground, fishing and boating, playgrounds, boat rental and lodges. As vehicles leave the full parking lot, others will be allowed in. The restriction will be reviewed following the Labor Day Weekend, as beach use wanes.
Already on busy weekends, campsite occupants have been walking a half-mile to the beach and many day-use visitors have also parked and walked similar distances. Customers renting the two north side lodges will be advised that their guests will have a limited number of spaces, and urged to carpool when possible for the receptions, reunions and other functions held in the lodges.
The beach area restrictions do not affect south side campground and fishing ramp use, or other day uses at parking lots and activity areas throughout the 2,175-acre Department of Natural Resources (DNR) state park; though park officials stress that those parking areas may also fill quickly. Diverted park-goers will be advised of other parks and beaches in the area.
Puettman said the DNR did consider other ways to accommodate increased park usage, but there is currently not enough money in the budget to add additional parking areas or build another beach area. Puettman said he is glad there are so many people wanting to use the park, because it is a great public facility. But he feels part of the reason for its popularity could be that it is free, and it is one of the last public beaches in Johnson County that still allows alcohol on the premises.
This summer, the parking lot and road areas will continued to be monitored by park rangers. The effectiveness of the restrictions will be assessed, Puettman said, and next year, DNR officials may consider instituting a small user fee, installing fencing and adding lifeguards to the beach area.
For now, Puettman said, he hopes everyone will abide the minor inconvenience.
“We are just asking people to be safe, stay hydrated in hot weather and try to stay away from alcohol,” he said. “Lake Macbride is a great place to come to enjoy outdoor recreation, and makes it so much better if we can all get along.”