Milan Beach advertises itself on its website as “family-friendly summer fun,” but there is a group of community members who question the safety of this beach.
Ashley Carpenter was spending the day at Milan Beach on July 4, 2020, when a 17-year old boy tragically drowned. She said she and her boyfriend were among a handful of bystanders who dove in the water to search for the body. As this was happening, she said the rest of the beach carried on with their parties and owner Habib Howard continued letting people into the beach.
“I was honestly traumatized with everything I had witnessed and being so close to a death like that, so the next day I started the group and invited everyone I knew on Facebook,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter created the Facebook group “Shut Down Milan Beach” and shared it on various community Facebook group pages. Carpenter and her boyfriend Montana Novak are admins and they appointed three other moderators to help upkeep the group.
Moderator Sheena Slavicek said she took her family to the beach when they first moved into town. Even though it was conveniently located near their house, she said the groups of seemingly underage kids drinking, broken furniture, and needles made her feel too uncomfortable to bring her children back.
“As a parent and a community member, this beach has brought a lot of concern for the area,” Slavicek said.
The “Shut Down Milan Beach” Facebook page has become a space for people to share photos and experiences about Milan Beach. Hazards on the beach and a lack of warning signs are among their main concerns.
Group Member Alana Armatis posted a story about her boyfriend, Nate Vaughn, who was attacked by the owner’s dog. Vaughn was pulling into the beach on his motorcycle on July 4, 2020, when the dog charged and bit through his pants and skin. Armatis said the owner did not react to this attack and the police did not follow up on the case after her boyfriend reported it. This Facebook post was accompanied by pictures of the dog bite.
Milan Beach’s website states a rule which prohibits pets, however, Slavicek said his dog often roams the area unleashed.
“Not only is the water not safe, but the surrounding area is not the best for children to be running around in,” Slavicek said.
The Milan Beach website claims that every first-time guest is required to fill out a waiver that absolves the owner from liabilities for any damages that happen on the premises. Slavicek among other group members said they have not heard of anyone filling this out.
Another story posted on the Facebook page was by John Webb who was working as a Hungry Howie’s delivery driver when he brought an order to Milan Beach. He said there was a long line to get into the beach so he pulled ahead to the front so he could deliver the order and get back to work. He said the people in line seemed to understand but when he encountered Howard on his forklift, Howard started shouting profanities. Webb said he was too distracted by the shouting to realize that Howard had pulled the forklift directly under his front bumper, so when Webb backed out to leave, the bumper was ripped off of his car. Webb has pictures of the damage.
Since Howard took over ownership over Milan Beach, there have been two drownings and a shooting. The shooting took place on May 22, 2021.
Carpenter and Moderator Cathy Peterffy brought their concerns to a Milan Township Board Meeting on July 9, 2020. They spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting about their qualms about Milan Beach. Howard was present in the meeting and Carpenter said he was very aggressive and argumentative. Carpenter said she felt threatened by Howard at the meeting as well as after the meeting when she said he waited in his car for about twenty minutes. She called the police but Howard and his wife left before they arrived.
Milan Township stated at the meeting that they do not have control over how Milan Beach operates because it is a private business.
Township Supervisor Phil Heath said, “The beach is properly zoned for what they’re doing. It is a private operation. Any and all problems with the beach is a civil matter. It is not within the township’s responsibility to provide or police a private business if they are properly zoned.”
The tragedies that happened at Milan Beach do not require action from the township. Heath said Milan Beach is not currently doing anything that requires a permit.
“The bottom line is that it is out of the townships’ control. This is a private matter and if they have a problem the township attorney said they can file a civil suit and handle it that way but it is not the township’s responsibility,” Heath said.
The group is still working towards their goal of either shutting it down or encouraging Howard to make the beach safer. Since they were unable to receive aid from the township, they have been focusing on community outreach to spread their concerns to the public.
“At the minimum, we want to know that this place is safe when people go there and that would mean that the owner has to change his attitude towards everything,” Slavicek said.
The Facebook group has grown to be a space where community members can share their experiences and support one another in their efforts to either shut down or improve Milan Beach. Since the recent shooting, Slavicek said hundreds of new people have joined the group.
“It is a good feeling knowing that we may have just saved another life,” Slavicek said. “We may have made it so their child didn’t get hurt, or they didn’t get hurt. It’s good to know that there are plenty of people out there that we’ve changed their mind about going to a dangerous place.”
Milan beach owner, Habib Howard, has not commented on the group or events at this time.