Court gives lakeshore landowners rights
to water's edge
Grand Rapids Press
Posted May 15, 2004
LANSING -- Michigan property owners who live along the
Great Lakes shoreline have exclusive access up to the
water's edge, the state appellate court said in a decision
The unanimous decision could affect where people are
allowed to walk along private, waterfront property they
don't own. The issue has been a contentious one in recent
years because of the Great Lakes' relatively low water
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled a person has the
right to walk along private property as long as they remain
in the water. But where dry land begins, the property
owners have exclusive rights.
Mike Fogg, who has lived along Lake Michigan in Park Township
for 25 years, said he has no problem with walkers -- as
long as they are respectful.
"I like to see people walking by," he said.
"I think a lot of people do. It's when people set
up campfires on your beach that people get upset."
The case stems from a dispute among neighbors living
along Lake Huron.
"We have said all along that we own up to the water's
edge, and this decision confirms for modern times what
the courts have repeatedly said since 1930 and before,"
said Ernie Krygier, president of Save Our Shoreline Inc.,
a nonprofit group committed to preserving waterfront areas.
Krygier's organization said the appellate court decision
calls into question the assertion by the state Department
of Environmental Quality that the boundary between public
and private land is the ordinary high-water mark.
DEQ Deputy Director Skip Pruss disagrees. He said the
ruling reinforces law that says property owners have exclusive
rights up to the water's edge.
But the decision does not change the fact that the state
holds title to the land up to the high-water mark, he
said. That prevents property owners from interfering with
public use of navigable waters, Pruss said.