Mar 24 2008
Monroe County’s Lake Erie shoreline is dotted by places with questionable public access. Perhaps the most mysterious of these is the “Lady of the Lake” property at the eastern terminus of Erie Road in Erie Township.
Access to the property can be gained by taking the Erie Road exit from I-75 and traveling east. Once past the access roads to the Consumers Energy Whiting Power Plant, a visitor should park at a small lot at the Erie Road dead end.
From this point, a walker will see a gate with a gap wide enough for pedestrians. A short walk east brings the visitor to the Lake Erie shoreline and some pretty nice views of Turtle Island, several lighthouses and the Woodtick Peninsula.
Once at the shore, it is possible to walk south along the peninsula for three or four miles, depending on how adventurous a hiker is. The peninsula breaks into a series of islands along the way, but underwater sand bars make pedestrian access possible during good conditions. Here’s a link to a previous blog post about this walk:
Conversely, a walk north along the beach brings the visitor to the old Lady of the Lake camp. Entry to the property passes by an old and mysterious arching gate that reads “Lady of the Lake.”
Several old cement posts with “LL” remain standing at the property entrance.
It is difficult not to wonder about the history of this location. I have not come across any good histories of the camp, but it was apparently a church-run camp for kids that closed because of flood damage at some point several decades in the past.
The absence of a widely-distributed true history of the land has caused many imaginative minds to fill in the blanks with a variety of supernatural conjectures. Some have theorized that the spirit of an old lady haunts the old camp. Others theorized that children were once murdered there. I do not believe any of these stories to be true, but they sure add some mystery to an otherwise mundane piece of property. Here are some links to those stories:
Whatever the history, the location is now in need of some care and attention. During a walk along the shore of the camp, I came across several large pieces of debris that had either washed-up on the shore or were dumped by thoughtless individuals.
The property has a zebra-mussel-shell-filled beach with several old foundation stones that peek up out of the water. Erosion seems to have taken a toll here and the beachline seems greatly reduced from past years.
Just inland of the beach, a strip of woods shades an old access road/path in a north-south fashion for the length of the property.
It is possible to reach Luna Pier’s public outlet to Lake Erie by walking north along the beach or along the inland path.
At this outlet, a short walk west brings a walker pretty much face to face with the Luna Pier city boat launch. The old interurban railway bridge crosses at this point, so it is physically possible to cross into the City of Luna Pier at this point.
Interior portions of the property protect what is probably the most important features from an environmental perspective. Watery marsh provides a home for muskrats, birds and other marsh-dwellers. This property is a part of a large complex of marshes that extends southward into the Erie State Game Area, the Nature Conservancy’s Erie Marsh Preserve and several small pieces of public land attributed to other public agencies.
Before I go any further, I need to address the question of public access to the property. Michigan law provides that beach access up to the ordinary high water mark is permissible, given that a beach walker has a legal entry via land to the beach. Consumers Energy has long allowed access to the beach at this location via the parking lot mentioned earlier.
Consumers has also long allowed a hiker to walk the beach south to the Woodtick Peninsula. It is the only land access into most of the Erie State Game Area. On several occasions, I have approached the plant security personnel at the plant gate and asked about the situation. The answer has always been that it is okay as long as I stay along the shore. The interior dikes off the beach to the south are now clearly marked with “No Trespassing” signs. But the beach is still clearly open to the public. And I have occasionally seen DNR officers here to check fishing licenses.
The Lady of the Lake property is more complicated. I believe that the actual beach is public, but I have questions about the interior portions. The interior beach ridge is not marked with “No Trespassing” signs and it is possible to hike to Luna Pier’s launch outlet without encountering such signs. And it is clear that many, many people do walk there. But this might just be benign neglect on the part of Consumers Energy.
I am very sure that the marsh areas inland are not publicly accessible. There are several signs indicating as much on the initial parking lot-to-beach access.
To, me this location is one of the most important areas in regards to public access on Monroe County’s Lake Erie shore. There are many miles of hiking paths on the Woodtick and in the Erie Marsh. To the north, Luna Pier is one of the most pedestrian-friendly communities in all of Monroe County. This property connects these two locations. It *could* become the core building block for an eventual Lake Erie trail along Monroe’s shoreline.
Consumer’s Energy has scheduled a press conference for this Tuesday afternoon to address the future of the Lady of the Lake property. I am curious about these plans and will provide links and updates as they become available.
Here is a view of the property from Microsoft Virtual Earth with my walk route: