There are many things to enjoy about spending time at a lake: teaching one’s kids to waterski, taking long pontoon boat rides, playing the Beach Boys’ greatest hits on repeat, floating around on a raft, and, of course, cornhole—Indiana’s true pastime.
Unfortunately, no matter how fast you run to your car at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon to beat the weekend traffic or how far you travel to “your” lake, legal challenges may follow you.
There is a scene in the movie Marley & Me where the main character, John, takes his dog, Marley, to a beach. The beach had a strict leash policy, prohibiting owners from letting their dogs run free on the sand and in the ocean. Earlier in the movie, despite Marley’s less-subtle attempt to use puppy eyes to guilt John, John resists taking Marley off the leash, fearing the glares he might get from his fellow beachgoers if Marley misbehaved. However, John, now years older and much wiser (or so the audience is led to believe), lets Marley off his leash. For about a minute, the audience sees shots of Marley running on the beach and splashing in the water, quashing any fears John may have had. But naturally, only seconds later, Marley runs in the shallow water and begins to relieve himself, to the disgust of everyone else on the shore.
Most lakefront property owners in Indiana know a “Marley” of their own. Although many lakefront property owners are happy to allow neighbors to pass along their shoreline and enjoy some of Indiana’s greatest natural resources, when dogs leave “gifts” on their shore or neighbors overstay their welcome, these property owners begin to contemplate what rights they have to exclude access to their shore. While some use scowls and verbal pleas to resolve these matters, others are forced to pursue litigation. That was the case in Gunderson v. State, a case where the parties were awash in a dispute over the public’s right to Lake Michigan’s shoreline.