Two Competing Bills About Lake Michigan Beach Access Pass Committee
Two contradictory state bills meant to decide who gets access to Lake Michigan beaches passed out of committee on Monday.
The one in the Senate aligns with a 2018 Indiana Supreme Court decision that says the public has a right to use Lake Michigan beaches up to where the high water mark usually hits the sand. It also defines what kinds of activities are allowed there — like walking and swimming — which the court said the state should decide.
“Because the recreational use definition has not been answered by the legislature for over two years, the temperament and attitude of many of these lakefront owners is still to harass the beach-goers and kick them off ‘their beach,’” says Kendra Bartlett, who lives in the northwest Indiana town of Long Beach.
Anna Voortman owns lakefront property in Long Beach. She says, because of erosion along the lake, she could lose property rights depending on how the state interprets the boundary line.
“We’ve got all the money that we put into our home and don’t have the right to access or use it or protect it the way we anticipated when we first started building up there,” she says.
The Senate bill would also leave it up to the state Natural Resources Commission to help communities interpret where private property ends and public beach begins.
A competing bill in the state House would allow lakefront property owners to claim the sole rights to use the beach as long as those rights were stated in the most recent deed to the property.
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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.