Traditionally when roads end at bodies of water the public has been allowed access, so what's all the fuss about this new legislation?
In June the Michigan House passed legislation increasing the scope of public access to bodies of water from the ends of public roads.
Yet, over the years, numerous court rulings have established the principle that public streets terminating at the edge of navigable waters are usually deemed to provide public access to the water. So, what's the big deal?
The bigger debate this time is what can be built at those access points and who would be in charge of them. House Bill 4463 states that a marina can be built by a local government at the end of any public road which terminates at a body of water of over 2500 acres. They can also issue permits for seasonal private docks. This means that township governments could build large docks with boat hoist facilities, making it difficult for private citizens to carry in their canoes, or let the kids take a quick swim. Yet Bill 4464 increases the rights of the public to include lounging, sunbathing, and picnicking, all land-based activities.
On the other side of the debate, the legislation clarifies that surrounding property owners can not put up "no trespassing signs" just because they would like to keep the lake access private.
one user group with a lot at stake are those who live near a lake, but not in the first tier of homes on the waterfront. Called "backlotters," some people believe that this legislation will allow them to seize road ends and make them essentially private beaches.
Exempt from this legislation is property owned by the State of Michigan.
The Detroit News quoted Houghton Lake property owner Marty Prehn, this is "only the beginning of a long and winding road. All it's going to do is open up a Pandora's box and have litigation over every one of these road ends."
Hamlin Lake, in Mason County, would be affected by this ruling. At 5000 acres, it has over 75 road ends which terminate at the lake. Property owners complain that they are regularly cleaning up messes left by the public. Some road ends have steep slopes and serious erosion would result from using them as boat ramps.
The Ludington Daily News reported that the Mason County Road Commission managing engineer, Gary Dittmer said "the issue is a constant source of irritation... but he does not think the bills will alleviate any problems."
by Joan H. Young
Read the text of House Bill 4463
Read the text of House Bill 4464
Read more in the Ludington Daily News
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