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Grand Forks Council changes mind on life jackets for Mud Run

Participants in the upcoming Uff Da Mud Run will be allowed to swim without life jackets after Grand Forks City Council on Monday took back its recent decision to require life jackets.


The new decision comes after mud run organizer Andy Magness, of Extreme North Dakota Adventure, met with public safety officials from both Grand Forks and East Grand Forks to come up with a revised safety plan for the race.

Previously, public safety officials strongly recommended requiring life jackets during the last leg of the race, which is an unassisted swim across the Red River. The council followed that recommendation in its first decision two weeks ago.

The new safety plan includes requiring life jackets only for racers younger than 18, allowing only 20 people in the river at a time, and posting several signs that warn the dangers of swimming without a life jacket if you are too exhausted, said Chief Peter O’Neill of the Grand Forks Fire Department.

There will also be four lifeguards on paddleboards in the river, ready to assist anyone having trouble with the swim, and Altru Ambulance will be on site, Magness said.

O’Neill said the Fire Department and other safety agencies are comfortable with the new safety plan. Their original concern had stemmed from last year’s race, when 12 swimmers out of 685 were pulled from the river. Life jackets were not required in that race.

Magness reiterated that race participants this year will be strongly encouraged to bring their own life jackets, in case they do get tired. Race organizers will also have about 35 to 40 life jackets on hand.

When council members asked if either the Fire Department or the Grand Forks County Sheriff would be on site, Magness said “No.”

“I would not be bringing this race to Grand Forks if I did not feel we could manage the safety,” he said.

But O’Neill said the Fire Department would be there if City Council requested it.

The council decided to allow the race with the new safety plan as long as the Fire Department has a boat ready in the river, so firefighters can access swimmers quicker in an emergency.

Charly Haley

Charly Haley covers city government for the Grand Forks Herald. As night reporter, she also has many general assignments. Before working at the Herald, she was a reporter at the Jamestown Sun and interned at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, Detroit Lakes Newspapers and the St. Cloud Times. Haley is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead, and her hometown is Sartell, Minn.