In July 2005 the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the right of walkers to pass along any private shoreline property as long as they are anywhere between the water's edge and the ordinary high water mark - the spot on the shore where continuous water action leaves a distinctive mark. Justice Maura Corrigan, the Supreme Court majority said land below the high water mark was historically state property and a public-trust interest remained under common law even after the property was sold to a private owner.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case, meaning that the decision would stand.
Property rights activists expressed disappointment. But it seems that this group will have its way in Ohio, at least for a while. Ohio has historically claimed ownership over all land from the high-water mark to the water, even if landowners' deeds said ownership extended to the water's edge.
Naturally a lawsuit has followed. A trial court in Ohio has held that the public trust stops at the water's edge. The Ohio court said that it was not persuaded by the Michigan decision. Appeals are expected.
Walkers Rights advocates
Michigan Land Use Institute, "Court's Hathcock Ruling Offers Clues to Beach Walking Suit", Jul 10, 2005
Michigan Land Use Institute, "Tear Down Those Fences", Aug 2, 2005
Property Rights advocates
See Times-Gazette, "A great (lake) ruling for landowners", Hillsboro, Ohio, by Patrick J. Wright, Jan 19, 2008
Save Our Shoreline
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