U.S. Supreme Court Turns Back on Michigan Beaches

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to consider whether people have a right to stroll along private property aligning Great Lakes beaches in Michigan.

Justices left undisturbed a state Supreme Court ruling last year that found beach walking is a right.

In its 5-2 ruling, Michigan's highest court said the area between the water and the ordinary high water mark on shore is accessible to all under the common-law doctrine of natural resources as a public trust.

The two dissenting justices also recognized a right to walk along private shoreline property, but only on the narrow band of wet sand immediately beside the water.

About 70 percent of Michigan's 3,200 miles of Great Lakes shoreline property is privately owned.

Pamela Burt, an attorney who supported the rights of beach walkers, said the U.S. Supreme Court's decision should lay the beach walking issue to rest.

"It adds another layer of protection for us," Burt said, adding that she wasn't surprised the justices declined to get involved. The Supreme Court traditionally has deferred to state courts in cases raising issues of public access and property rights in areas below the high water mark, she said.