Court ruling doesn't settle Lake Michigan beach access

Lake Michigan

LONG BEACH, Ind. - An Indiana man alleges a homeowner along Lake Michigan tried to remove people from the beach despite an Indiana Supreme Court ruling allowing lakeshore access.

The Indiana Supreme Court in February ruled that the state owns the shoreline and holds it in trust for all residents. The ruling set the ordinary high water mark as the boundary between the state-owned land and the interests of private property owners. The high water mark is defined as the line on the shore created by the fluctuations of water.

But Long Beach resident Tom King told The (Northwest Indiana) Times that property owner Jim Smith and a security guard attempted to remove dozens of people from the beach last weekend after they had gathered to watch boat races. King, a director of the Long Beach Community Alliance, ultimately called the Long Beach police over the dispute.

Smith said the security guard was brought in by the Long Beach Homeowners Association.

"I've never asked anybody to leave my beach," he said. "I have never in the eight years that I have owned that property have asked anybody to leave that beach."

Smith declined to say whether he believes the beach is his property.

The security guard was cooperative and left after a town officer was sent to the scene, said Long Beach Chief Marshal Robert Sulkowski.

The state Supreme Court's decision on the issue will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court .

Bobbie and Don Gunderson filed the property rights lawsuit and alleged the deed to their lake-adjacent property showed it extending to the water's edge, regardless of where the water's edge is at any given time. Their attorney argued that landowners have the right to limit who uses the beaches abutting their properties.

King said more people than usual were on the beach and he was shocked private security guards were trying to force them from public property.

"It's unfortunate, because I don't know how many people had actually left the beach upon hearing that," he said. "It's possible people didn't know the law."

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