The shores of the Great Lakes may look serene, but they are a battleground. Members of the public enjoy using the shores for fishing, boating, birding, or simply strolling along and taking in the scenic vistas. Repeatedly, however, owners of land ordering the Great Lakes (i.e., littoral owners),' armed with deeds indicating they own the shore to the water's edge or even lower, have tried to stop members of the public from using their property above the water's edge. The right to exclude others from your property, the littoral owners argue, is one of the most important sticks in the bundle of property ownership rights and should be enforceable on the Great Lakes shores just as anywhere else. Members of the public, on the other hand, claim that such shores are common to all and cannot be the exclusive domain of a private landowner. Raising the "public trust doctrine" as a shield (or sword), these members of the public contend that the shores of the Great Lakes are held in trust by the state for use by the public, and therefore they have the right to walk along the shore above the water's edge.
Kenneth K. Kilbert,
The Public Trust Doctrine and the Great Lakes Shores,
58 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at http://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol58/iss1/3