Purple Paint Means Stay Out – But Not Technically In New York State
Do you know what it means if you are walking through the woods and see purple paint on a tree? It might not have the same effect here in New York.
There is something known as the "Purple Paint Law" that tells people to stay off your property, but as of now, it doesn't apply in New York.
What is the Purple Paint Law?
Essentially, the Purple Paint Law is something that allows people to post their property to keep people from trespassing just by painting a purple line on the trees on the outside perimeter of their property.
How do you do it?
All you have to do in states where this law is in effect to show that you have posted property is paint a line in the color purple on the trees surrounding your property that is at least 8 inches long and one inch wide. That line will serve the same as a traditional "Posted" or "No Trespassing" sign.
Why would you paint your trees instead of just going and buying posted signs?
It's been a longtime practice that if you didn't want someone on your property, you would put up "Posted" signs to show that others weren't allowed on the land. They are still a completely legal way to post your property. So why would people paint their trees?
1. Purple paint is more permanent. While posted signs still work as a way to show people the property line, those signs can either fall off or be taken down by someone. When you put purple paint on all of your trees, it makes the property line a little more permanent.
2. Purple paint can be cheaper. If you have a huge amount of land that you'd like posted, if you're posting signs every couple of feet, it can get very expensive to buy. Add in the amount that you have to pay to replace signs that fall off the trees and get lost or are stolen.
Which states have already adopted the "Purple Paint Law?
There are a number of states that have adopted the Purple Paint Law already including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
You will notice New York is not on that list.
Why doesn't New York have the Purple Paint Law?
Former state Senator James L. Seward introduced a bill in 2018 to make it a law but it died in the Assembly and never went any further.
The concern from some is that unless there's education to follow the bill, not everyone will know what purple paint on a tree stands for. The argument is that signs create more clear communication.
“The advantage to signage is that anyone who is walking by a boundary can easily read that there’s a private land boundary. If it’s just purple paint with no signage, people may be less likely to understand what that is unless the state itself and organizations across the state have done a significant job getting that info across to all visitors.” Andy Mossey, stewardship and advocacy coordinator for the Catskill Center
That hasn't stopped people in New York from posting their property with purple paint. If you see purple paint while you're out hunting, fishing, or simply hiking, you should know that you are on someone else's property (and they don't want you there without their permission).