Friday's Weekend Column
Protecting Public Lands Forever

by James Glaser
October 10, 2003

Last month at our Township monthly meeting, the Township Supervisors told us that the County wanted them to start vacating any old easements and unused roads so they could be put back on the tax rolls. Usually any vacated road is given to the adjoining property owner, maybe twenty or thirty feet to one and the same to the other. If the road goes through one persons property, then they get it all. That night they vacated a road right of way, that dead ended at the lake, with no public impute because the easement had never been recorded.

Something told me that what they had done that night wasn't on the up and up. The next morning a neighbor stopped over and was telling me that he thought something was fishy about the township vacating that property. He thought if one road is vacated, then everyone will want any road that dead ends at the lake next to their property vacated too. Free lake shore is quite a bonus.

So, last week that neighbor and I went down to Grand Rapids and asked the "County" what the deal was and found just the opposite of what we were told at the Township. Not only does the County not want that land vacated, they will fight any move to do so in District Court. So what the heck is going on here?

We also found out that the road that was vacated was recorded as are all the roads leading to the lake. On our lake there are seven or eight of these roads and they were set aside with each section of the lake shore that was platted. I live on Lot #1 of Elmora Beach and lot number twenty two is only 42 feet wide and right on the plat it says that it was given to the public, "forever." That is the same thing that is said on the plat in which the road they vacated is located. That road was given to the public "Forever."

We left the court house and went over to the Department of Natural Resources and talked to the man in charge of Trails and Lake Shore. In our county there are over 1000 lakes so this guy has to know the rules. He told us that many of these roads to the lake were established so that people living around the lake would have an easy way on in the winter, so they could cut ice for their ice houses.

The DNR also wants to save these pieces because they feel in years to come, these little pieces of land will be the only undeveloped spots on a lake and in future years, some kid that wants to go fishing won't have to walk to the other side of the lake to find a legal spot to get to the water, which will happen if the Public Access is the only public place open. Plus these roads are used by people to put out their ice fishing houses in the winter and like me, their boat in the summer.

Well last night I attended the Township meeting with Plat Maps and the names of the people we had talked to. The Township Board rescinded the vacation of that road they vacated last month, but they couldn't remember who at the county told them they wanted this done. I did find that one of our elected officials has one of these lake access roads on his land, right near his house and if vacated, he would pick up a free sixty six feet of lake shore worth about a thousand dollars a foot now. I would hate to think that is what started this whole thing.

I think we have now saved these little strips of land so any citizen can use them and I feel real good about it. I can see some little kids walking down to one of these roads to fish or swim and as they grow older maybe they will think how smart the people back in the 1930s were, to save these spots for everybody.

With the price of lake shore going up every year, most people will never own any. Soon, only the "haves" will be able to live on the shore of a lake. Some land should be set aside so that everyone can use our water resources. Some people have to be reminded that lakes are public property. Our Grand Parents had the forethought to set these lands aside for everyone and we should keep them, FOREVER!

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