Public has right to walk along Great Lakes beaches, court rules

Discussion in 'Outdoor News' started by Hamilton Reef, Jul 30, 2005.

  1. Public has right to walk along Great Lakes beaches, court rules

    TRAVERSE CITY -- People can stroll along Michigan's 3,200 miles of Great Lakes beaches whether owners of adjacent private property like it or not, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.
    In a case that put the legality of a cherished tradition to the test, the court unanimously sided with Joan M. Glass, an Alcona County woman who sued a neighbor over access to the Lake Huron waterfront.

    NOTE: FILED JULY 29, 2005
    JOAN M. GLASS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
    v No. 126409

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  2. I for one enjoy the beach walkers as they stroll along out front here.

  3. yep, our place up in the thumb... i truly think the public should have the right to walk the beach. one of the last enjoyable places to go for a walk on the water.
  4. At a time when many things in our world seem to be upside-down, the Michigan Supreme Court just turned one important part right-side-up.

    In their ruling in Glass v Goeckel last Friday, all seven Justices agreed that the Public Trust Doctrine protects the public’s right to walk our Great Lakes shores. While two Justices (Young and Markman) argued for limiting beach walking to the wet sand area, the majority Opinion written by Justice Corrigan (joined by Chief Justice Taylor and Justices Cavanagh, Weaver, and Kelly) held that the public has the right to walk the shores of the Great Lakes up to the ordinary high water mark.

    In reversing the Court of Appeals decision granting lakefront owners exclusive possession of the shores, the Justices waded through a huge body of arcane law to arrive at a well-articulated decision which remains true to a legal doctrine dating back to the early Romans. Under that law, certain natural resources, including the waters, bottomlands, and shores of our Great Lakes, are too important and valuable to the public to ever be the subject of purely private ownership and control.

    We owe these Justices our gratitude and respect for sending the clear signal that the Public Trust Doctrine is alive and well in the State of Michigan.

    To read the Opinion, go to:

    In the three days since the Opinion was released, phone calls and emails have poured in from citizens all across our two Peninsulas, expressing heartfelt gratitude for the Court’s protection of our cherished right to walk the Great Lakes shores.

    For those here who are all too familiar with how sadly our Lakes are ailing, with invasive species wreaking havoc in the ecosystem, and billions of dollars needed for clean-up efforts, take heart that the public can walk the shores to appreciate where their tax dollars are being spent.

    Lastly, for those of you who work so hard each day to protect these vast freshwater seas, you owe yourself a walk on the beach to remind yourself of the ineffable splendor of your cause.

    Pamela Burt
    Attorney for Joan Glass
  5. I agree with you folks. Too many things have been decided in the other directon lately, favoring corporations and 'ownership' over public and shared access.

    I applaud the court on this one.
  6. I know that in the near recent past there have been rulings against not riparian owners rights at Houghton Lake and other spots. On the surface there would seem to be a conflict between this decision and say the one involving Houghton Lake off water owners rights. Is there a lawyer around that can make sense regarding these several recent rulings? Or is the difference simply Great Lakes waters and beaches versus inland lakes and beaches and if so what is or why would there be a difference?
  7. malainse

    Staff Member Super Mod Mods


    Most has to do with the State (people) owning the Great Lakes and inland lake property owners have riparian rights.
  8. Walk, don't go wild, on beaches
    Here are things to know for strolls

    Walking Great Lakes shoreline in front of private property is legal, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled.

    Excellent! Time for a daylong shoreline picnic with a boom box cranked up and the dogs running like waterlogged lunatics, right? Wrong.

    Like a sidewalk in a subdivision, the beachfront corridor is primarily for walking. Activities that would be illegal, inappropriate or just plain stupid on a sidewalk would, in most cases, also be against the rules on the shoreline.
  9. Ruling ‘open to interpretation’

    August 4, 2005 by Eric Carlson

    Beachfront property owner David Almeter of Suttons Bay was heading to Bay City today for an “emergency meeting” of the board of directors of “Save our Shoreline.”

    The group was meeting tonight to discuss its next step following a Michigan Supreme Court decision last week upholding the public’s right to walk along privately-owned beachfront on the Great Lakes.

    Meanwhile, Leland shoreline property owner Adele Dinsmore just shrugged her shoulders as she looked down on more than 100 people occupying the broad expanse of sandy beach directly in front of her family’s Lake Michigan waterfront home. The family’s property is adjacent to the Reynolds Street road-end.

    “I think most of the people here have no idea that beyond the 60-foot right-of-way this is not a public beach, and that they’re actually trespassing on private property,” Dinsmore said.

    “I guess I’m happy about the Supreme Court’s decision, though,” she added. “At least all of these people will have a slightly bigger area they can access without breaking the law.”

    The state’s high court on Friday reversed a decision made last year by a state Court of Appeals that gave shoreline property owners “exclusive use” of their waterfront property to the water’s edge. Previous understandings had allowed members of the public to walk along private beaches between the “ordinary high water mark” and the actual water line without risking trespass charges.

    The court case stemmed from a longstanding dispute between neighbors on Lake Huron. Joan Glass routinely used an easement through property owned by neighbors Richard and Kathleen Goeckel to reach the lake. The Goeckels agreed that Glass could access the beach, but would not allow her to venture off the 15-foot easement to walk in front of their property.

    After Glass successfully sued the Goeckels in Alcona County Circuit Court, the Goeckels went to the Appeals Court where the ruling was overturned. The Appeals Court ruling made it illegal for anyone to walk on privately-owned Great Lakes beachfront in Michigan – unless their feet were in the water.

    The Michigan Supreme Court last week reversed the Appeals Court’s decision, noting that “walking the beach below the ordinary high water mark is inherent in the exercise of traditionally protected public rights and falls within the scope of the public trust.”

    The court added: “This activity remains subject to regulation, as is any use of the public trust.”

    “As I read it,” said Almeter, “the decision leaves a lot open to interpretation and future state legislation. Will people be able to fish along privately owned shoreline? Do their dogs have to be on leashes? Who’s going to be responsible if somebody gets hurt on my property?”

    Almeter added that bankers also have questions about whether property owners have clear title to all the property they’re paying taxes on, and the location of real estate “meander lines” along the lakeshore.

    “And what are the rules for grooming our beaches?” Almeter asked. “That’s what I’d really like to know.”

    Unlike the Dinsmore family’s broad sandy beach, the Almeter family beach on West Grand Traverse Bay is narrower and rockier, with vegetation and swamp land appearing as the lake water levels drop. Almeter said he has rarely had trouble with “beach walkers.”

    Dinsmore said she has rarely had trouble with “beach walkers” either – and not even with the crowds of people who gather on her family’s private property. A sign erected at the Reynolds Street road-end by Leland Township notes that “public access to the lake is 60 feet wide” and that “property on both sides of the access is private.”

    “We’ve been coming to this beach every summer for 10 years,” said Marion Dickel of Pittsburgh, who was seated with several members of her family on beach towels plopped onto the Dinsmore’s private beachfront property.

    “Even though the signs are there, nobody’s ever come down and told us to leave,” Dickel said. “I guess people in Leland are just nice.”

    “Well, we are nice people,” said Dinsmore, “and we’re also very privileged to own this property. Our family has owned it since the 1940s and we drove all the way from Fort Collins, Colorado, just to spend a few weeks here this summer.

    “Of course we don’t like it when kids (urinate) in our bushes or people make bonfires in the dune grass,” Dinsmore added. “But my experience has been that if you ask people to quit doing something – they do – and they’re nice about it. I think these are all pretty nice people, and I like seeing them enjoy themselves as long as they behave.”
  10. I also saw this article today. What jumped out at me is this quote:

    "They haven't lost any rights," countered Jim Olson, a Traverse City environmental attorney. "They've lost some perceived rights that didn't exist."

    I guess that's where I fall in this whole argument. I feel for those who have spent their hard earned money, and in many case a lot of time and effort, to buy and maintain their places on the great lakes only to have some moron destroy their little piece of heaven by partying, urinating, littering, etc. Most people are respectful of public places, but as we all know there are a few in every crowd who don't. My opinion throughout this whole thing, just like that of attorney Olson, is that the property owners have either been knowingly sticking their heads in the sand (no pun intended), or have simply been ignorant to the fact that they never owned to the waters edge in the first place. This ruling reinforced that. Hopefully we don't have realtors in this state who are consciously violating the trust of their clients by telling them they do!
  11. Supreme Ct. decides not to take up Michigan beach walking case

    Feb 21, 2006 By JOHN FLESHER AP Environmental Writer

    TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to consider whether people have a right to stroll along private property aligning Great Lakes beaches in Michigan.

    Justices left undisturbed a state Supreme Court ruling last year that found beach walking is a right.

    In its 5-2 ruling, Michigan's highest court said the area between the water and the ordinary high water mark on shore is accessible to all under the common-law doctrine of natural resources as a public trust.

    The two dissenting justices also recognized a right to walk along private shoreline property, but only on the narrow band of wet sand immediately beside the water.

    About 70 percent of Michigan's 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline property is privately owned.

    Pamela Burt, an attorney who supported the rights of beach walkers, said the U.S. Supreme Court's decision should lay the beach walking issue to rest.

    "It adds another layer of protection for us," Burt said, adding that she wasn't surprised the justices declined to get involved. The Supreme Court traditionally has deferred to state courts in cases raising issues of public access and property rights in areas below the high water mark, she said.

    Phone messages seeking comment were left Tuesday with Save Our Shoreline, the group that asked the court to take the case.

    In a statement in December, SOS President Ernie Krygier said the case "is important not just to preserve the private nature of Michigan's Great Lakes beaches, but also it is an important test of our constitutional protection of private property."

    If the Michigan court's decision stands, government instead of private owners will decide how beaches can be used, Krygier said.

    The case is listed on the U.S. Supreme Court docket as Goeckel v. Glass, 05-764.

  12. Whoah there Mister. If a REALTOR was under contract with a buyer client---it would involve a little more than just a matter of trust. The Agent would have a fiduciary obligation and as such, could find is or her ash getting taken to court because they were incompetent in their duties. Buyers Agents have a higher standard than Sellers Agents who can use a little puffery on behalf of their seller client.
  13. Man charged with using gun to run off tourists

    09/06/2006 By craig mccool

    PETOSKEY — A Charlevoix man faces multiple charges after allegedly using a gun to run a tourist couple off from a public beach adjacent to his home.

    Police said the 42-year-old suspect, whose name was not released pending arraignment this month, faces felony charges, including felonious assault and discharging a firearm while under the influence, for an Aug. 19 incident near where Townline Road dead ends at Lake Michigan.

    A 39-year-old Ionia man and his girlfriend were at a public beach in the area when the suspect began throwing rocks at them, Emmet County Sheriff Peter Wallin said.

    "He was just throwing rocks, wanted them to scare them off or whatever, and the other guy went up to see what was going on," Wallin said. "It was a verbal confrontation. Then it got physical. Then the guy pulled a gun."

    The victim jumped down a ledge in attempts to get away and injured his ankle. A shot was fired after the victim jumped, police said, though it isn't known whether the suspect was shooting at the victim.

    Wallin said the suspect was living with relatives on Townline Road.

    There is a township park nearby and a public beach, Wallin said. The victim wasn't trespassing.

    "He (the suspect) said he thinks it's his beach, and he doesn't like people on it," Wallin said.

    Police searched the home after the incident and located several guns.

    The suspect, because of a prior felony record, should not have possessed any firearms, Wallin said.

    The suspect is currently free on a $10,000 bond and set to be arraigned Sept. 28.
  14. Beach suit heads to trial


    PARK TOWNSHIP -- A beach used by more than 70 people in a subdivision east of Lakeshore Drive will remain accessible to those homeowners for now, an Ottawa County judge has ruled. Judge Jon Van Allsburg recently refused to dismiss a lawsuit from residents of the Hollywood subdivision, who claim easement rights to reach the Lake Michigan Beach Park at the end of Lake Court, a private drive. The case now will go to trial. The Hollywood subdivision residents filed the lawsuit against the Lake Court Beach Association, whose homeowners live on Lake Michigan, to "forever establish" rights to use the beach, said Grand Haven attorney Paul Ledford, representing the Hollywood residents.

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