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Published: Tuesday, 2/8/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Keep lake access

Lake Erie's shoreline shouldn't be for sale to the highest bidder. The right of every Ohioan to walk along the beachfront of this state's greatest natural resource must be preserved. The Ohio Supreme Court has an opportunity to affirm that principle.

Lakefront property owners have taken to the high court their effort to make public property their own. The legal dispute centers on who has rights to a strip of land between the water's edge and the ordinary high-water mark along Ohio's 312 miles of Lake Erie coastline.

Two lower courts ruled in favor of property owners, declaring that the line between public and private land lies where the water touches the shore. But a boundary that changes every time the wind shifts is an effective way to block access to what should be public property.

It's to be hoped that the Supreme Court will recognize that the lake and the land along its edge belong to all Ohioans. Property owners insist they shouldn't have to share their backyards, but that argument becomes harder to make when private land abuts public property.

The case is not about government usurpation of private-property rights. It's about the state affirming what it holds in trust for the public and defending Ohioans' rights of access to those resources.

The Supreme Court can follow long-established principle and a century's worth of legal precedent. Or it can allow a handful of wealthy property owners broad rights to private development of a treasured public resource. The choice doesn't seem that hard.

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