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Great Lakes Article:

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 published Friday.

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 levels.

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.


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