Man files civil rights complaint in fight for public fishing - Fox 2 News Headlines

Man files civil rights complaint in fight for public fishing along Gary’s lakefront

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Gary, Indiana is known for everything from its homicide rate to being the hometown of the Jackson 5.

Now, it's getting some attention for something it does not have: public fishing along Lake Michigan.

The city of Gary stretches for 22 miles along Lake Michigan. Silas Sconiers claims it's the only city on all of the great lakes which doesn't have public access for fishermen.

"My wife tells me on a regular basis, get out somewhere, go fishing! But where is there to go fishing?" Sconiers says.

There's no place in Gary, according to Silas Sconiers, who was born and raised here. The lakefront is off limits. The piers and docks that could provide accessible public fishing, especially for the elderly and disabled, are privately owned by companies like the Majestic Casino or by private homeowners. And wading is not an option.

"We have riptides out there," Sconiers says. "I'm disabled. I have five herniated discs. My friend Stacey can't go fishing, and wading out there, he's in a wheelchair, what is he to do?"

"It's like an obstacle course when you come out here, it makes it very hard," Stacey Clayton adds.

Sconiers has gone as far as to file a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of the Interior, claiming that his predominantly black hometown would have had more fishing and recreational opportunities if it were predominantly white.

Gary's mayor disagrees with that claim, but agrees that opening up the lakefront to some fishing makes sense.

"We believe it would be a great opportunity for our residents," Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson says. "It would be a great opportunity to attract tourists or those who are fishing enthusiasts, and we certainly are open to it."

The mayor said talks are underway with the casino regarding fishing opportunities, which Silas Sconiers says could benefit everyone involved.

"Well if the fish aren't biting, we're going to go in the casino!" Sconiers says.

A spokesman for the Majestic Casino wasn't available to discuss this issue. Mayor Freeman-Wilson says the Department of Interior has indicated they'd like to help solve the problem. But Silas Sconiers says he's skeptical of promises from politicians.

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