The Indiana Supreme Court passed a ruling in the case of property owners Don and Bobbie Gunderson of Long Beach versus Indiana in the matter of public access rights to the shoreline of Lake Michigan. The Gundersons contested any public use of the beaches by their La Porte property, claiming their property deed included all of the lands to the water’s edge. This line may fluctuate with the tides. Therefore, no one had access to the beach behind their lakefront home without their consent.
Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher countered that the land up to the high-water line was established as the property of Indiana at statehood in 1816. As a result, the land up to this line is considered public domain. The Indiana Court of Appeals threw in a third perspective saying both parties were correct. Therefore, the state and the property owners shared the land between the water’s edge and high-water line.
After considering all of the evidence, the justices voted 4-0, with 1 abstaining, in favor of the State of Indiana. Justice Mark Masa wrote in the court’s response to the case. He stated since statehood the land from the high-water line past the water’s edge up to and under Lake Michigan was given to Indiana. The state holds the land in trust for the people of Indiana, and as such, the people have the right to access and use the beach and lake water. Beach-goers can now return to sun.