U.S Supreme Court won't touch Great Lakes beach access case

Feb 20, 2019

The public has the right to walk the Great Lakes shoreline even along privately owned beaches. The U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed that right on Tuesday when it declined to hear a case from Indiana.

The case was filed by landowners in Long Beach, Indiana on the south shore of Lake Michigan. Plaintiffs Donald and Bobbie Gunderson sued the state in 2016, advocating the court rule that the public has no rights to private land abutting Lake Michigan.

The Gundersons were protesting Indiana's definition of public land along what's called the “ordinary high water mark." That's the spot on the beach where waves typically reach, something that changes with each season and the weather.

A similar battle is playing out in Leland. A family that owns private beachfront next to a popular public beach has complained that people trespass on their land. The Janko family pushed Leland Township to remove its signs for the public beach last year.

But the Michigan Supreme Court has long held that walking along a Great Lakes shoreline is a public right. The court last upheld that right in 2005 in a case along the Lake Huron shoreline.