KINCARDINE, ONT. -- It’s still going to be a couple of months before people are thinking about swimming in Lake Huron, but that’s not stopping a group from Kincardine from pitching some life-saving ideas to improve safety at their beach and pier.

“Most of the people that came here, and unfortunately drowned here, was because they didn’t understand the conditions that day," explains Ash Adams, part of the citizens' group pushing for improved Kincardine beach and pier safety.

"So, we’re trying to make a visually simplistic system that has no language barrier, to tell people whether today is a safe day to go in the water or not.”

Five people have drowned in the water off Kincardine’s beach and pier since 2008. And despite signs and warnings about dangerous rip currents, the drownings keep happening.

The citizens' group has pitched a series of improvements to Kincardine council, including a rope railing along the pier, a phone and defibrillator down at the beach, even a robot lifeguard to help remotely access people in trouble in the water.

But the most visual idea, they believe, involves placing a set of traffic lights at the beach, which would automatically be updated with real-time data from the lake.

“It collects all the data from the middle of the lake, things like wind speed and direction, and breaks down all those data points into a very simplistic traffic light system, so that the everyday person coming to the beach can understand whether it’s safe to enter the water or not,” says Adams, who is also an avid surfer.

The traffic light idea, the first of its kind in Canada, is the brainchild of folks at NPX - a Kincardine nuclear supply company - who have put their own time and money into the concept, which they pitched to Kincardine council earlier this month.

“We’re open to this,” says Kincardine’s Mayor Anne Eadie. “Anything we can do from these innovations, we will look at."

The estimated price tag for all the group’s pitched safety improvements is nearly $55,000. They hope to monitor and pay for the safety upgrades with a combination of municipal and private dollars.

“We’re trying to pick off the low-hanging fruit, like signage, first. Try to get a phone and defibrillator down here. We’d really like to make the traffic lights happen this year, but we’re not sure it will or won’t, but we’re really going to try to make that happen,” says Adams.

“Five is too many drownings for us. Five is too many for any municipality. We want zero. No more reports of drownings. No more lost family members,” he says.

Kincardine council asked staff to have a report ready in April on what safety improvements can be implemented this summer, and what can be done further down the road, but council appears prepared to make changes to their beach and pier in time for the summer swimming season.