By Jessica Mathews /

Livingston County residents and others are being encouraged to provide input to help guide a new regional water safety and swim initiative.

The Huron-Clinton Metroparks is working with a consultant and partners to create a regional swim program to address what officials say are alarming water safety statistics. The first step is to gather public input via an online survey to guide the development of a regional swimming program.

A press release states that drowning is among the top three causes of unintentional death for people age 29 and younger, 79% of children in households with annual incomes less than $50,000 do not know how to swim, and studies have shown that 70% of Detroit children have little to no swimming ability.

Officials say the alarming reality is that Southeast Michigan has a multitude of opportunities to enjoy both natural and constructed water activities but the disparities in swim ability and water competence lead to a higher risk of drownings in the region. Thus, the Metroparks are teaming up with partners and a nationally recognized consultant to address and start changing that reality.

Director, Amy McMillan says Southeast Michigan has some of the best recreational water opportunities in the state and they want everyone to be able to safely enjoy those opportunities. She says statistics say that learning to swim through formal lessons may reduce the likelihood of drowning by 88% and that’s why the Metroparks feel it’s so important to develop a regional swimming program plan with the goal of improving swimming ability and water competence.

The first phase of the project is a survey to get a baseline determination of swimming abilities in the region, barriers to access for swimming and learning to swim, as well as other factors that may contribute to systemic disparities in swimming ability and water competence. Responses are said to be needed from every corner of Southeast Michigan.

A link to the survey is provided and more information is available in the attached press release.