Who owns Lake Michigan? The courts have had to decide the case of landowners vs beachcombers.

The debate is private property v.s. public conveyance. Can you walk on the beach in front of someone's house if they are on a public lake? What rights does a homeowner have? These are all questions that have been raised in a court of law.

In 2005, "the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the public has a right to walk along the lakeshore, as long as they stay below the lake’s high-water mark," MLive reports in their coverage of the latest round of the ongoing battle. Indiana residents had appealed their state's law and wanted to take the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court, but the high court has declined to hear the case.

Here's what it means: beach-walkers may stroll along the shoreline as long as they keep to the area that is below the highest point where the water reaches: the high-water mark. Homeowners have rights too. It is illegal to camp, picnic, litter or pick up any items while walking on private property. The law also does not allow anyone to dock, anchor or ground a watercraft of any sort without permission- the easement is a walkway only.

So, common sense prevails. Those who have paid dearly for lakefront lots get to make the most of them but cannot restrict access completely. Those who want to enjoy a stroll on the beach may do so but should be courteous, keep moving and don't take anything extra with you. Lake Michigan sunsets for everyone!

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