Kramer v. City of Lake OswegoAnnotate this Case
Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the City of Lake Oswego had allow them recreational access to Oswego Lake, either from the shoreline of the city’s waterfront parks (from which the city prohibits all water access) or through the city’s residents-only swim park. According to plaintiffs, the common-law doctrines of public trust and public use protected the public’s right to enter the lake, and the city’s restrictions on access to the lake were contrary to those common-law doctrines. Plaintiffs also contended the city’s restrictions violated the Equal Privileges and Immunities guarantee of the Oregon Constitution. Defendants were the City of Lake Oswego the State of Oregon, and the Lake Oswego Corporation (which held title to riparian rights to the lake). The case reached the Oregon Supreme Court following a summary judgment in which the trial court assumed that the lake was among public waterways to which the doctrine of public trust or public use applied, but held that neither those doctrines nor Article I, section 20, entitled plaintiffs to the declarations they sought. The Court of Appeals affirmed, also without deciding whether the lake was a public waterway. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court correctly granted summary judgment on plaintiffs’ Article I, section 20, challenges. The Court also concluded that neither the public trust nor the public use doctrine granted plaintiffs a right to enter the swim park property and that the public use doctrine did not grant plaintiffs a right to access the water from the waterfront parks. But the Court concluded that, if Oswego Lake was among the navigable waterways that the state held in trust for the public, then neither the state nor the city could unreasonably interfere with the public’s right to enter the water from the abutting waterfront parks. Accordingly, the case was remanded for resolution of the preliminary question of whether the lake was subject to the public trust doctrine and, if the lake was subject to that trust, then for resolution of the factual dispute regarding whether the city’s restriction on entering the lake from the waterfront parks unreasonably interfered with the public’s right to enter the lake from the abutting waterfront parks.