Marine and Coastal Law: Cases and Materials

By Dennis W. Nixon | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
RIPARIAN RIGHTS AND THE NAVIGATIONAL SERVITUDE

Mentor Harbor Yachting Club v. Mentor Lagoons, Inc., 163 N.E.2d 373 (Ohio 1959)

MATHIAS, JUDGE

The facts as determined by the lower courts are substantially as follows:

In the late 1920s, the property now held by the parties to this action was owned by the Mentor Harbor Company, plaintiff's predecessor in title. The property, then in its natural state, consisted of marshlands in which there was located an inland body of water two or three hundred feet in diameter and fed by streams and drainage from the marsh. This body of water flowed into Lake Erie through a natural channel part of the time and at other times was separated from the lake by a sandbar formed in such channel as a result of the action of the waters of Lake Erie and the prevailing northwest winds.

While this area was in its natural state, it was used primarily by fishermen and hunters who obtained access thereto from Lake Erie through the natural passageway from the lake. However, at times of low water, it was sometimes necessary for the fishermen and hunters to drag their boats over the seasonally existent sandbar.

The plan of the original owner, the Mentor Harbor Company, was to develop this area into a residential community with private dock and boating facilities similar to those found in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Pursuant to this plan, the company constructed a series of interconnected lagoons in the area which had comprised the marsh and widened and deepened the channel into Lake Erie, building concrete retaining walls along the side walls of the lagoons and channel. The area surrounding the lagoons was subdivided into lots, a few of which were sold, but the project was abandoned due to the economic conditions existing in the 1930s. Plaintiff, the Mentor Harbor Yachting Club, is the present owner of the land adjacent to the channel, while defendants, Mentor Lagoons, Inc., and Albert C. Nozik, and others are the owners of the property adjacent to the lagoons. The defendants claim a right to use the channel as a means of ingress and egress between the lagoons and Lake Erie.

This action was brought by plaintiff to enjoin defendants from trespassing on the channel. In-

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