COA denies rehearing in Lake Michigan public trust case

The Indiana Court of Appeals won’t rehear its Dec. 7 decision finding that the public trust doctrine controls the shore of Lake Michigan between the ordinary high- and low-water marks, allowing people to walk the shore.

The court in an order issued Thursday denying multiple petitions for rehearing by parties and amici on both sides of the private property versus public trust lawsuit, Don H. Gunderson, et al. v. State of Indiana, et al., 46A03-1508-PL-1116.

The Gundersons sought a declaratory judgment that their private property rights along Lake Michigan in Long Beach extended to the water’s edge, wherever that point was at any given time. The state and several friends of the court argued the state held in public trust all land on the shore up to the ordinary high-water mark.

Parties are likely to petition for transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court. The case also is likely to set precedent establishing a line in the sand between public access and private property rights to the Indiana shore of Lake Michigan.

LaPorte Superior Judge Richard R. Stalbrink set the private property boundary at the ordinary high water mark established by an elevation in the Indiana Administrative Code. The COA reversed in part, holding the northern boundary of the Gundersons’ property is the ordinary low-water mark, subject to the public’s rights as part of the public trust.

Amicus parties aligned with the Gunderson in the case include Save Our Shoreline. Those joining the case on the side of the state include Alliance for the Great Lakes, Save the Dunes and Long Beach Community Alliance.

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