February 4, 2020

Lake Michigan Beach Access Bills Die In Legislative Session

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Whihala Beach Park in Whiting, 2011.  - Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr

Whihala Beach Park in Whiting, 2011.

Eric Allix Rogers/Flickr

Residents who live near Lake Michigan are unlikely to get clarity this year on who can use beaches in front of private property and for what purpose. Three state bills that would have addressed that issue failed this legislative session. 

Two of them would have given lakefront property owners the sole rights to the beach as long as those rights were stated in the most recent deed to the property.

One of them would have affirmed the Indiana Supreme Court decision which said that the public can use the beach up to where the high water mark usually hits the sand. It also would have satisfied the court’s directive to define what kinds of activities are allowed on those beaches — like walking, fishing, and swimming.

Sen. Karen Tallian (D-Ogden Dunes) co-authored Senate Bill 325.

"Some legislators who were against this bill wanted to make sure it would not make it out of the Senate, even if the districts they represent do not touch Lake Michigan," Tallian said in a statement. "It's a shame that the bill's fate ends here, as it would have codified what the Supreme Court had told us in its Gunderson decision. The State of Indiana owns the beaches along Lake Michigan, and the public has a right to recreation along the beach. Hoosiers shouldn't fret, though. The Supreme Court's decision is still in place, and I will continue to try to make sure that Indiana code reflects what the courts have ruled."

Contact Rebecca at rthiele@iu.edu or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.

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