Access Denied?

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Access Denied?

Post by Quill Gordon on Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:18 pm

There is a story making the rounds, about two anglers taken to court by a land-owner and charged with trespassing: http://ow.ly/4DP4G

At about the same time, I wrote a fictionalized account of a run-in I had with a man who wouldn't leave the property I care for when asked: http://ghoti62.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/first-of-all-i-wasnt-really-bragging/

There are differences between these situations: My stomping grounds have been private for more than a century, so I'm not denying access arbitrarily or keeping anyone from doing something they are used to doing; there is no stream involved here, so no one could walk in legally, and once they reach the lake they are no longer accessing a stream, for example.

How well do you really know the laws regarding access where you live, and how far would you being willing to go to make your point if you felt you were in the right?

I've been on both sides of the fence on this issue, legally ducking under fences across streams and running off trespassers and I'm interested in reading what others have to say.

(I was the caretaker on a private island once. We had properly posted No Trespassing signs at the high-water line but people still came ashore. One guy anchored his boat nearby and I chased him back to the beach several times but he finally pulled a gun so we just flipped each other off and left it at that. No I didn't. We had a propane-fired, noise-making cannon cemented into place nearby for scaring away cormorants and the next morning, at precisely 3:30 a.m., Operation Wake Up Call began, with a loud explosion every thirty seconds for the next two hours (which is how long it took that guy to finally leave.)
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Re: Access Denied?

Post by Owl on Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:52 pm

In Georgia, the law is clear cut but not often popular with anglers or landowners. If you own one side of the stream, you own the stream to it's mid-point. If you own both sides, you may block access on the whole stream. Personally, I believe that just because land has water on it, it doesn't mean it isn't still your land if you own it.

I mean, would it be right to allow people to parachute into a lake on our land? I think not.

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Re: Access Denied?

Post by milliam on Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:45 pm

I agree with you Owl and the ownership rights, but I'm not so sure Ga's law is that clear cut. I've always heard that if you can float a barge on it, it public water. There's been so disagreements over what an actual barge is of course. There aren't many places that a real barge could float in around here.
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Re: Access Denied?

Post by Quill Gordon on Thu Apr 21, 2011 8:36 am

I have a feeling the laws are not as clear as they should be in most places.

I'm glad the anglers in the first story stood up for what they knew to be right (that they were, indeed, allowed to wade the stream that ran through the man's property) and were found not guilty of trespassing. The problem I'm having, I guess, is that this has been called a victory for anglers everywhere when it is not.

It is an affirmation of the rights of anglers in certain places to access water (not land) where allowed by law. Every year I run into people who insist they know the laws regarding access when they do not. There are also those who think they should be able to access any water and seem willing to force the issue by threatening to make our little tiff into a test case in the courts.

In my not so humble opinion, hunters, anglers, hikers, etc. should be sure they know the laws regarding access. If unsure, they should ask and not assume, and they should also keep in mind that confrontations with irate land owners can go from ugly to worse very quickly, no matter who is right.

Maybe I'm frustrated at being treated like I'm just some guy who goes around randomly harrassing people and pointing to signs. I try hard to start off being as polite as possible, I really do, but the arguing with people gets old after a while.
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Re: Access Denied?

Post by milliam on Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:32 pm

Too many people have grown up doing whatever they wanted to and getting away with it. Actually, there probably wasn't as much enforcement of these types of laws back when they were kids, so it wasn't that big of deal. Now that everyone could care less about who's property it is and the bad eggs trash the place, the owner's have to crack down and enforce these laws.

Growing up doing one thing seems to have many thinking its their right now.

You would hope the polite method of letting them know they were wrong would work, but for some reason some seem to think you're trying to keep them from some where they should be.

Knowing the law would go a long way on both sides, but how difficult is it to know the law in some places?
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Re: Access Denied?

Post by BADKARMA on Thu Apr 21, 2011 4:29 pm

Here is an interesting article from my neck of the woods concerning Cummings Lake which is actually beside Nickajack Lake (TN River). Before the river was dammed to make Nickajack, this small lake existed. It is fed by the river via two inlets, but the owner put draw bridges across them with locks so no one could get in there. Laws are different in different places. I know one guy who went in there when the gates were left open once. The TWRA was called and he told him to leave. He said he had a right to be there since he arrived by navicable water and continued to fish. The TWRA officer stayed right with him as he trolled the area catching a bunch of fish. When he had his fill the officer followed him out and locked the gate behind him. I think Georgia's laws stem from the early to mid 1800s and probably need to be updated some. I think in TN you are not trespassing unless you touch (walk) on the bottom, which as mentioned before, is their property. But if you stay afloat you are allowed. Anyway, read and enjoy.

http://www.chattanoogan.com/articles/article_197327.asp
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Re: Access Denied?

Post by Quill Gordon on Fri Apr 22, 2011 7:53 am

Badkarma - Thanks for the link. Very interesting to see how access rights have evolved in other places. I can see how someone might want to stop traffic in a channel that runs through the middle of their property, especially when there is such a huge body of water surrounding it to play in/on, but it strikes me as odd that someone could control access in the middle of open water, based on old landmarks ("from that old hickory snag to the second rock"?).

I think there is a bit of the old "forbidden fruit" syndrome going on sometimes. People see a place like where I work and figure if it is private and posted, there must be something special being kept from everyone else. Well, our native brookies top out at 6" like everyone else's and, taking into account the way a fish can grow between the catching and the telling, our rainbows are fair to middlin' in size but somehow people think I'm guarding a pond full of hawgs.

It's kind of funny to look back, trying to figure out just when my old fence-hopping inner commie got so serious about private property rights.
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