In 1998 two Michigan home owners butted heads over who, where, and what was permissible on the shores of Lake Huron. For decades Joan Glass had used a fifteen-foot easement to walk from her house across the street to the lakeshore where she and many other neighboring residents would walk along the beach ("Where is the Water's Edge?"). The easement in question was owned by Glass and traversed the property access the street from hers, thereby allowing her access to the lake. When the property that the easement traverses was sold to the Gloeckel family, Glass was on longer allowed to use this trail of sorts to reach the water's edge without her new neighbors permission. The Gloeckel's maintained that because their deeded property rights extended to the lake shore, they alone were entitled to freely access the beach in front of their home ("Beach Walking: Court Affirms Public's Right to Walk Michigan's Shoreline").
In 2001, Glass sued the Goeckel's claiming that by limiting her ability to freely roam the shore, they were impinging on the rights conferred to her under the Public Trust Doctrine. The Alcona Circuit Court ruled in favor of Glass, noting that Glass was entitled to walk along the shore as long as it was at or below the ordinary high water mark as defined by the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act. In 2002, the Gloeckel's appealed the lower court's decision. The Michigan Appellate Court overturned the case, maintaining that the Great Lakes Submerged Lands Act could not be appropriately used to decide cases relating to access rights. Instead, the appellate court applied the "public trust doctrine," stating that under this doctrine the public reserves the right to use the waters and submerged lands of the Great Lakes up to the water's edge. Anything landward of the wet beach was then said to be part of titled property of the littoral property owner. This meant that going forward; recreators and beach goers were required to stay in the water to avoid trespassing on private property. This ruling had especially significant implications for the state because approximate 70% of its shoreline is privately owned ("Where is the Water's Edge?").
In 2005, Glass again appealed the case, this time elevating the issue to the Michigan Supreme Court. Here the decision of the Appellate Court was overturned. In contrast to the lower courts, the Michigan Supreme Court cited previous case law from the U.S. Supreme Court maintaining that, similar to oceans, the Great Lakes are critical channels for commerce and navigation. Furthermore, the court noted that historically these navigable water bodies have been considered public resources and thoroughfares, and should be treated as such going forward. Because Lake Michigan is not subject to the tidal fluctuations that typically mark the landward boundary of the Public Trust lands, the court maintained that the state Public Trust Doctrine would apply to all lands at or below the natural ordinary high water mark (NOHWM) ("Beach Walking: Court Affirms Public's Right to Walk Michigan's Shoreline"). The court also held that the rights preserved by the Public Trust Doctrine are separate from property owner's private title, meaning both the state held rights under the Doctrine and privately held title could overlap without issue. As a result of this ruling Michiganders can now freely exercise their right to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan at or below the NOHWM ("Where is the Water's Edge?").