On The Waterfont
FORT ERIE TIMES 5-8-14
A legal decision in Michigan in July of 2005 could have a big influence on our Great Lakes shoreline access in Ontario. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that there could be no fences on any of that state's 5,000 km of Great Lakes shoreline. Further, they ruled that the public had walking rights (Right of Passage) on all of their shores on Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron and Erie. The decision was later affirmed by the US Supreme Court.
You may ask, “So what, that's the USA and how can it benefit us”? Well, it just might for a number of reasons.
Firstly we share the same shores and have similar legal systems evolved from British Common Law. Some of the arguments in the Michigan case were based on British laws that have their roots in Roman Law from 2,000 years ago.
Just think. If you are walking on a Michigan beach and look out over Lake Huron to the Ontario shores you can't help but make the comparison. In Ontario you still have fences and Keep Off signs that prevent you from shoreline walks while in Michigan you have free and unencumbered public Right of Passage.
Here in Fort Erie we formed the Ontario Shorewalk Association shortly after we learned of the Michigan case with a view to gaining the same walking rights for Ontario's public. Our approach was dictated by economics. A legal challenge was cost prohibitive we we instead approached our Member of Provincial Parliament Kim Craitor. When he first looked at our restricted road allowances with fenced in beach fronts of 66 feet width and endless sands on either side he was aghast and pledged to introduce a private member's Right of Passage bill in the Ontario legislature.
All told, over the course of 2 terms and 8 years Kim worked on the public behalf. He introduced a Right of Passage bill 4 times and it seemed to have good all party support but in each case time ran out before it could be passed into law.
Kim's resignation last fall was a blow to our plans but here in the spring of 2014 we are again optimistic. Our new MPP Wayne Gates met with us and with Kim recently and expressed support and interest in our plans.
In the meantime our Shorewalk president Betty VanOsch continues with her efforts to improve public access along the Waverley Beach road allowances; Pierce, Rose and Beachview. She has had complete co-operation with Town council and staff so expects completion of the town's project quite soon and looks forward to the next phase.
For the next Shorewalk column look for an evaluation of our and the town's shoreline efforts since 2005, a time and place for out annual general meeting and discussion on how we may be able to integrate our agenda with plans for a shoreline walking trail.
A link to Shorewalk's change.org Right of Passage petition and a membership sign up can be found on our website www.shorewalk.ca
Garry Skerrett, Shorewalk founder, email@example.com