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Monday, December 12, 2016

Ind. Decisions - More on "Court of Appeals finds Hoosiers have right to walk near Lake Michigan"

Supplementing the most recent ILB post (from Dec. 8, 2016) on rights to the Lake Michigan shoreline, Stan Maddux of the South Bend Tribune reported this weekend in a long story that included:

LAPORTE — Public access rights to the Lake Michigan shoreline was affirmed this week by the state's Court of Appeals.

In its 3-0 decision Wednesday, the court reaffirmed the extreme shoreline is owned by the state as a public trust for all of its citizens.

Although the ruling upholds arguments from landowners that private property extends to the water's edge, the court stated that granting lake shore property owners the right to exclude the public from state-owned land ''would be inconsistent with the public trust doctrine."

The state's interest extends to the "ordinary high water mark," which the court defined as the line on the shore where the presence and action of water is continuous enough to distinguish it from land through erosion, vegetation changes or other characteristics. * * *

Wednesday’s decision stems from a multi-year legal challenge by the Long Beach Lakefront Homeowners Association, which claims there have been numerous complaints of beach use that include parties, littering and other activities by the public on land that its members felt they had exclusive rights to. * * *

South Bend attorney Michael Knight, who represents the homeowners association, said no decision has been made on whether to appeal the appellate ruling.

He compared the decision to ownership of any residential plot extending to the middle of a street with the area between the street and edge of the yard being public right of way.

Although the court ruled against the ability of private landowners to restrict public access to the lake for activities such as fishing and walking, Knight feels the public shouldn't have the right to stop for any other reason.

''I would say sitting, partying, loitering, stopping is more akin to ownership than it is to merely walking,'' said Knight.

The shoreline is accessed by the public on right of ways owned by the town, which patrols the strip they consider public beach.

Long Beach Police Chief Bob Sulkowski, though, felt the court ruling doesn't prohibit activities by the public and that's how his department has already been handling the situation.

“We've treated it that way ever since this began,” Sulkowski said. “So it's nothing new to us.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 12, 2016 10:05 AM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions