Heightened security for Silver Beach July Fourth celebration

After last year’s chaotic July Fourth celebration, the city of St. Joe and Berrien County are prepared for a busy holiday weekend.

“Many weekends in July are busy, but July Fourth is pretty much off the charts for attendance,” Berrien County Parks Director Brian Bailey said.

This year, the parks department is making sure a Fourth of July like last year’s does not happen again.

“We have additional signage posted around the park and we are bringing in additional staff from Love Creek and Madeline Bertrand Park to help with the increase of people that we expect for this weekend,” Bailey said.

And the parks department won’t be alone.

“Over the last couple weeks, we have increased our personnel here due to some of the incidents that have occurred, so we do have added staff on,” Berrien County Undersheriff Charles Heit said. “Obviously for the Fourth of July weekend, we’ll even be adding to that.”

The St. Joe Department of Public Safety is also “increasing the manpower on all of our local beaches…to make sure we don’t have reoccurrences of what occurred last year,” deputy director Steve Neubecker said.

Officers will also be enforcing some rules Bailey hopes you’ll follow.

“Leave the alcohol at home,” he said. “We don’t want any glass bottles at any of the beaches…fireworks are definitely not allowed on any of the beaches. Your portable grills are not wanted here.”

He added, “We want you to come and have a great day, a safe day. Keep an eye on your children around the playgrounds and in the water and everybody will have a good time.”

Undersheriff Heit made clear that there will be a “zero tolerance” for alcohol on the beach, and he said coolers are subject to being searched.

Beyond following the rules, local officials also offered some tips to make your weekend less stressful.

“Find parking on top of the hill rather than below the hill down by Silver Beach [or] Lions Beach,” Neubecker said. “That normally packs up before noon; park up on top of the hill and walk down with your family.”

And when you get hungry, staffers at Silver Beach Pizza said they’re ready to feed you.

“We definitely prepare by overstocking everything because we know we have such a huge rush,” server Katie Mavis said.

She added, “I think the smartest thing to do is to come in and put your name on the wait [list], and then you can enjoy the downtown and call ahead; or just get a to-go pizza too.”

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