Have you ever found yourself traveling along country roads and seen fence posts painted purple?
Have you hiked a trail and seen purple blazes along trees?
What about while floating along a river—have you seen trees with purple tape tied around them?
What’s up with all of this purple in the middle of nowhere?
In short, purple is synonymous with “No Trespassing” and is used to mark private property.
No trespassing signs get damaged by the elements: blown away in the wind, faded by the sun, blocked by foliage, and even gobbled up by trees.
One reason the local authorities want you to be respectful of these boundaries is that landowners may choose to hunt on their property and aren’t expecting other humans to be present in the area. By walking onto private property, you may run the risk of getting hit by a stray bullet, or—even worse—hunters may see you moving, mistake you for
Essentially, property owners are inclined to mark their property because they don’t want to be held responsible—or liable—for what you do while trespassing on their property. If you accidentally wander onto someone’s unmarked land and step on a nail, you could arguably have a case against them in court.
This simple marking strategy protects you and property owners alike.
Ignorance regarding these markings is not an excuse to violate their intent. Purple paint statutes have been around for roughly 30 years and are active in many states across the U.S. There are specific rules and regulations about using these markings like their peers, traditional “No Trespassing” signage.
In Missouri, for instance, all property owners are allowed to post purple paint marks, but they have to be on trees or posts. Professor Deanne Hackman, formerly with the University of Missouri, Columbia, said the markings have to be “at least 8 inches long.”
Continuing to summarize the rules, Hackman writes, “The bottom edge of each paint mark must be between 3 feet and 5 feet off the ground,” which puts the markings at about eye level. “Paint marks must be readily visible to any person approaching the property,” which gives property owners freedom from liability.
“[And] Purple paint marks cannot be more than 100 feet apart,” which means that if you’re encroaching on private property, you can’t use the excuse that you didn’t see the purple paint telling you to turn around.
“Any unauthorized entry onto property marked with the purple paint marks is considered a trespass,” Hackman continues. “First-degree trespassing is a Class B Misdemeanor, with potential punishment of a maximum $500 fine and/or a maximum of 6 months in jail.”
So if you find yourself approaching a fence post or tree with an 8-inch strip of purple paint at about eye level, for your safety and your wallet’s sake, remember: don’t pass the purple!