Great Lakes
Indy Star

Bills would say how much of Lake Michigan's beaches are public -- and what you can do there

How much of Lake Michigan's beaches are public — and what you can do on them — is the subject of two bills currently making their way through the statehouse.

In 2018, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the public had a right to access the beaches of Lake Michigan. A bill by Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, writes the ruling into state law and outlines several recreational activities that would be protected on these beaches.

A second bill, authored by Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Elkhart, would give the Indiana Department of Natural Resources broader discretion over where public land ends and private land begins, a provision that critics say would undermine the Supreme Court decision. The bill would also give the DNR authority over local officials to permit structure such as seawalls in a "Lake Michigan shore zone" also created by the bill.

Opponents of Tallian's bill, and of the Indiana Supreme Court decision, says that it goes too far by giving public access to private property.

Critics of Doriot's bill say that it could restrict access to the beaches of lake Michigan and may even be unlawful.

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