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Know the Law – Michigan Beach Walking

Posted at 9:00 AM, Mar 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-11 16:49:05-04

Michigan’s shoreline draws tourists from all over the country and is one of the most loved and visited spots in the state. One recent Supreme Court decision maintains beach walking laws in Michigan and accessibility for all. Tom Sinas, Grand Rapids personal injury attorney, explains more.

Beach Walker Rights
The United States Supreme Court receives a lot of requests to review cases and one recently received was known as Gunderson v. State of Indiana. In this case, a landowner was challenging Indiana state law regarding land use by beach walkers along Lake Michigan.

Gunderson is important for Michiganders because, in 2005, our state Supreme Court ruled about who has access to what part of the beach. In this case, the court held that citizens of the state have the right to walk in what is known as the public trust section of the beach. This means private property lakefront owners cannot restrict people from walking the shoreline as long as they are within the high water mark. With rising and lowering water levels in our state’s lakes, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the high water mark is.

What This Means for Michigan Beach Walkers
The US Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case out of Indiana means that our current law in Michigan remains in place. People were concerned that if the United States Supreme Court heard a beach rights case and changed federal laws, it would impact Michigan and the use of our beaches and shoreline.

It’s important to note that Michigan beach walking laws do not give walkers the right to trespass through private property to access the beach or set up camp once on the publicly accessibly portions of the shoreline. This area is strictly for walking.

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