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Real Estate Law

A Call to Action: Expanding Public Access to Ohio's Navigable Rivers and Streams

By Morgan Giles

J.D. Recipient, May 2011, Capital University Law School

Excerpt from A Call to Action: Expanding Public Access to Ohio's Navigable Rivers and Streams, 39 Cap. U.L. Rev. 993 (Fall 2011)

I. INTRODUCTION TO THE ISSUE OF PUBLIC ACCESS TO OHIO'S RIVERS AND STREAMS

The affluent society has built well in terms of economic progress, but has neglected the protection of the very water we drink as well as the values of fish and wildlife, scenic, and outdoor recreation resources. Although often measureless in commercial terms, these values must be preserved by a program that will guarantee America some semblance of her great heritage of beautiful rivers. 1

The rivers and streams in Ohio provide opportunities for recreation, but recreational users of Ohio's waterways risk losing access to these valuable resources as landowners exercise their rights to the privately owned riverbeds. 2 The question is how to balance the public's right to use these resources against the private landowners' rights to their property. There is no easy answer. There are many differing perspectives and possible consequences to each action. However, public policy trends in Ohio's judicial decisions regarding navigable streams and laws in other jurisdictions show that Ohio's current law should evolve to allow increased recreational access to navigable rivers.

Access to these vital resources is becoming more and more limited as property owners fight for control of the nation's rivers. 3 For much of society this is not an issue, but for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy using Ohio's rivers, limited access to Ohio's waterways is an increasing problem. 4 Private landowners and entrepreneurs are buying land bordering rivers and streams and cutting off access ....

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