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New Michigan Law Defines Lake Access Rights at Road-Ends

On March 22, 2012, Michigan Governor Snyder signed legislation amending Part 301 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, concerning the uses of road-ends, that have plagued adjoining riparian owners for decades.  New section 30111(B) specifies that, unless a recorded deed, recorded easement, or other recorded dedication expressly provides otherwise, a public road-end shall not be used for: 1) construction, installation, maintenance, or use of boat hoists or boat anchorage devices; 2) Mooring or docking of a vessel between 12 midnight and sunrise; or 3)any activity that obstructs ingress to or egress from an inland lake or stream.  Note that the legislation is not applicable to public roads that terminate at one of the Great Lakes.

A road-end can be used only for a single seasonal public dock that is authorized by the local unit of government, unless a recorded deed, recorded easement or other recorded dedication expressly provides otherwise.  In addition, a local unit of government  may prohibit a use of a public road-end that violates this section.

A person who violates the prohibitions described above is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine up to $500, or both.  Each day a violation exists constitutes a separate violation and peace officers are expressly authorized to issue an appearance ticket.  Historically, police officers have been reluctant to get involved, explaining that disputes concerning the use of road-ends are civil matters.  Though the new law expressly permits civil actions, there is now an alternative to expensive civil litigation.

Though decried by back-lot owners and certain other non-riparians, the new law essentially codifies existing case law and should provide more uniformity.

© 2014 Varnum LLP

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