Great Lakes
Tribune file photo/Dylan Goetz

US Supreme Court may decide public’s access to Great Lakes’ shorelines

As about 100 spectators gathered on a stretch of southern Lake Michigan shoreline in Long Beach, Indiana, last August to watch the Great Lakes Grand Prix boat races, they encountered something unexpected: A private security guard and a nearby lakefront property owner telling them they had to leave. They were standing on private property, down to the water, the guard told them.

“I was stunned,” said nearby resident Tom King, who was there that day.

King knew better, however. He’s treasurer with the nonprofit Long Beach Community Alliance, whose advocacy includes preserving Lake Michigan beach access. The alliance had intervened in a court case on the beach access issue, in which the Indiana Supreme Court had affirmed earlier that year that the public has the right to use the beach up to the “ordinary high-water mark,” even in front of lakefront private property.

“I was following behind, telling people to disregard what the security guard was telling them, that they had the right to be there,” he said.

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