2006 : Michigan Shorelines Remain Open to Walkers

February 22, 2018 all-day

The U.S. Supreme Court has sidestepped a dispute over the time-honored tradition of walking along Michigan’s Great Lakes beaches, declining to hear an appeal.

The court on Tuesday let stand the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling last July that declared open to walkers the area between the waters edge and the ordinary high water mark onshore – even if the shoreline is privately owned.

The public right to walk the beaches does not cover inland lakes, where lakeside owners land rights extend to the middle of the lake. Under the Michigan Supreme Court ruling, beach walking is allowed along the shoreline up to the so-called ordinary high-water mark, loosely defined as the point on the bank or the shore up to which the presence and action of the water is so continuous as to leave a distinct mark.

Robert LaBrant, general counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce who filed a brief on behalf of the property owners, said that definition is confusing and bound to lead to more litigation.

For most property owners, this ruling won’t mean any dramatic changes. But some will abuse this ability to stroll the lakefront, LaBrant said. They’ll build campfires and lug beer and ice with them and you’ll have a lot of people traipsing through.

For the full article, see Charlie Cain and Mark Hornbeck , “It’s OK to walk on the beach; U.S. high court lets stand Michigan ruling allowing strolls along Lakes shorelines, Detroit News, February 22, 2006.

For another article, see “Top court refuses state case; shorelines remain open to walkers, Lansing State Journal, February 22, 2006.