Purple trees a new way to say ‘Do not enter’ in some places

private property sign

A sign marking private property in Queensbury, N.Y. Signs like these in some states can be replaced with purple spray paint on trees to tell people not to trespass. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – It’s not the law in New York just yet, but in central New York and some neighboring states, there’s a new way to say “get off my lawn.”

Purple paint laws allow spray-painting trees purple as a state-recognized way to mark private property, and are currently in place in 16 states.

According to Hudson Valley radio station Q105.7, the trend is starting to show up in parts of New York, even if it isn’t officially recognized.

In New York, “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out” signs are the standard, and landowners are authorized to give written notice to trespassers when it makes sense to do so.

Jomo Miller at the New York Department of Environmental Conservation said that since purple paint is not legally recognized in the state, his department doesn’t track its use.

Statewide, trespassing on posted areas comes with a fine of up to $250, and/or 15 days of jail time, plus further action for those who damage property on posted land. Since the state doesn’t recognize purple paint as posting, legal action cannot currently be taken for trespassing on land with conspicuously purple trees.

David Wick with the Lake George Park Commission said he hadn’t heard anything about the use of purple paint on property around Lake George, but that he didn’t see a problem with the method, so long as property owners correctly mark only their own property.

Although it’s not law yet, it has shown up in state legislature. In 2018, former state Senator James L. Seward introduced a bill that died on the Assembly vine.

In the bill, Seward explained that the use of purple paint would help landowners from having to replace damaged or missing signs on their property. He also said purple is an easily identifiable color for people who are colorblind.

Seward writes:

This bill would allow property owners to place purple paint markings on trees as an alternative to the current method of defining one’s property through posted signs. The reasoning behind the existing law’s provisions is rational, as most people would initially assume that the best way of conveying any sort of message is through the posting of a sign. However, as time has passed, it is clear to see that this conventional method comes with some faults, which this legislation seeks to amend. The prime defect of this technique of delineating property lines is a sign’s ability to be tampered with and/or removed completely. Trespassers can easily vandalize these posted signs in a way which would free them of any accountability for unlawfully laying foot on another’s property, most commonly in instances of hunting. Aside from the physical and timely demands of maintaining these signs, one must also consider the economic demands. The constant repair and/or reinstallation of these signs and fences adds an extra, and burdensome, expense to property owners. Under this bill, this shortcoming of the standard posted sign is ultimately eliminated, or at the very least, dramatically lessens the likelihood of such obstruction occurring. In other states which have enacted similar legislation such as Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Texas, one can see this reduction of occurrences in action. In addition to this, a number of other states such as North Carolina, Maine, Florida, Idaho, Montana, Arizona and Kansas also have in place similar statutes with the slight difference in the use of color. However, researchers on the subject advocate the specific use of the color purple as it stands out in a natural setting, is not already used in the forestry industry and it is a hue that is recognizable for colorblind individuals. 

New York State Senate

The law was most recently adopted by neighboring state Pennsylvania in 2020. There, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the paint rules can apply to trees or fences.

Painted areas must be at least eight inches long and one inch wide, and be no less than three feet or more than five feet from the ground. Marks also can’t be more than 100 feet apart.

The Pennsylvania law also allows for the specific instance of hunters crossing marked property to retrieve a hunting dog.

The law is currently active in Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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