Eagle Lake Pier not ‘private’

Published 8:12 am Thursday, July 8, 2004

By By NORMA LERNER / Edwardsburg Argus
CASSOPOLIS -- Cass County Road Commissioners told an Ontwa Township couple last Thursday morning during a road commission meeting that they could not keep people from using their pier at the east end of Eagle Lake where the property is public.
The man and woman who live across the street from the public's use of the water's edge on Eagle Lake Road, a popular swimming place, asked the commissioners why a road commission employee was out taking pictures of the pier that they had obtained a permit to place in the water. The couple, who wished that their names not be revealed, said kids are diving off of the pier and that the purpose of the sign was to make it look like private property
Holding up a copy of the sign was Joseph Bellina, road commission engineer-manager, that said "private property."
It was explained to the couple that the pier is not private property even though they obtained the permit from the road commission and paid for liability insurance. "They were trying to make it private but it's not," said Bellina.
Commission Vice President Bradley Walker told the couple that the pier is public. It's on public property. He told them their personal boat docked to the pier is private property, and a private sign can be placed on their boat. He also told the couple that the pier permit is a privilege and is revocable. "We don't want problems that could result in revoking permits. You don't want it, and we don't want it," he said.
The couple also said they had a gas tank and battery stolen out of their boat. Walker told them that their situation is vulnerable to that type of thing since the road runs along the lake. They were told that the pier would be private if they owned lake property and put in a private pier.
The couple also said they were worried about the kids diving off of the pier in shallow water. They were told that they could put up a "no diving" sign" since there is exposure to liability but that it is not enforceable. Walker said in case of a mishap, the couple would be legally involved to some extent.
The couple also asked if the shoulder of the road could be closed and was told by commission Attorney Eugene Smith that there was a supreme court ruling on it and that it will never change unless Michigan is not a state anymore. He said the ruling was that riparian rights do not belong to owners of property on the other side of the street. It will always be public, he said.
The couple acknowledged that neighbors have been cleaning up along the roadside, and it has been easier for people to get into the water along the roadside since it has been mowed by the road commission. Bellina noted that an old rusty cable placed along the water's edge has been removed. He said it can now be mowed.
The board also discussed sending letters to townships asking them if they wanted more road work done with unused matching funds from four of the townships.
Contracts approved for the Village of Vandalia are as follows: