Background Considerations for Shorewalk

1. An 1876 official survey, by act of parliament, shows a shoreline road from the mouth of the Niagara River to the westerly limit of Fort Erie (then Bertie Township). By that date the land behind the shoreline road was fully occupied. All farm lot lines that approached Lake Erie ended at the shoreline road but did not cross it.

2. As farmlands were purchased for vacation homes during the late 1800’s and on into the 1900’s many of the new vacation properties were registered with lot lines to the water’s edge. We view these extensions of the earlier surveyed farm lot lines as questionable at best.

3. In 1893 the USA Supreme Court ruled that the navigable waters of the Great Lakes were an extension of the oceans and thus the same rights of passage along the shoreline pertained. Canadian courts have been less supportive of the “extension of the oceans” concept but it has never been clearly asserted and brought before the courts as in issue of its own merits.

4. In 1911 the Beds of Navigable Waters Act was passed declaring the beds of all navigable waters as public domain. This act was amended in 1940so as to define “the bed” as extending to the high water mark. The 1940 amendment seemed to re-affirm the long held concept of maintaining navigable shorelines as public domain. It furthermore confirmed our British-French heritage where, in both nations, land to the high water mark is regarded as public domain.
In 1951 an amendment to the Beds of Navigable Waters Act by H.R. Scott, Minister of the Department of Lands and Forests moved their jurisdiction from the high water mark to the low water mark. This should be viewed as an expropriation of thousands of kilometers of our public lakeshore.

5. Walker vs the Attorney General (1971) This court case was brought by the Ontario Attorney General to assert public rights to shoreline up to the high water mark at lakefront property on Fort Erie’s shoreline. Justice Stark ruled that the earliest known deed did not specify a reservation of the crown along the shoreline and that the wording of the deed was not specific enough to consider the high water mark as the lakefront boundary. The courts ruled in favour of Walker including the Supreme Court of Canada. Our research indicated that over the past 35 years the courts have become somewhat more predisposed to look favourably on the public’s right to the shoreline.

6. In 2002 an amendment to the Beds of Navigable Waters Act reduced the right of lakeshore property owners to own so called “water lots” (ie The bed of the lake). In addition the Ministry of Natural Resources states that their examination of the validity of water lots shows many of them to be invalid. This situation is of particular interest to boaters and needs further investigation.

7. In July 2005 the Michigan Supreme Court supported a claim to public walking rights along all of that state’s Great Lakes shoreline.(3200 miles-5000km on four lakes) The judges background reasoning included reference to English Common Law and to the concept that the Great Lakes are viewed as an extension of the oceans.

The judgement pointed out that a duality of rights existed such that the private land owners retain full title to the land but the public has the right to move over it. OUR GOAL - to establish the same rights of passage on Ontario’s Great Lakes coastline as now exist in Michigan.

About the Ontario Shorewalk Association

We are a group of concerned citizens based on Lake Erie's north shore in the Fort Erie, Port Colborne, Wainfleet Ontario area. We have members from many other parts of Ontario as well as support membership from the UK and USA.

To promote and enhance public access to Ontario's Great Lakes shoreline.

1. Build Membership, coalitions, and partnerships with like minded citizens, and organizations.

2. Publicize and monitor related public policy with our lakefront access objectives in view.

3. Work towards strengthening Ontario's waterfront legislative and judicial decisions to reflect the public's right to walk all of our shorelines. (to match American public Right of Passage (walking rights) in the Great Lakes States)

4. Promote and practice sound environmental policy within the above objectives

If you agree with our agenda then why not join Shorewalk?
Enrol online here – supporting (non-voting) membership is FREE and active financial support lifetime membership is $10.00.


No Rest at Ridgeway Fest / Stephen Passero to Lead Shorewalk

Enchroachments Must Go!! FE Council Passes By-Law...
June 2007

Winter Update
January 2007

Fall Update
November 2006

Summer Update
July 2006

Spring Update
April 2006

End of Year Report
Dec. 2005