CADILLAC — A bill that is working its way through the state legislature would allow property owners to use purple paint to legally mark the boundaries of their land.
The Senate recently passed the legislation sponsored by Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington. A press release issued by VanderWall’s office indicates that the bill’s intention is to provide an easier and less expensive way for property owners to protect their land.
“There are convincing reasons to allow property owners to protect their property by marking it with paint,‘ said VanderWall. “Unlike signs, paint cannot be torn down. In addition, some forested areas are not suited to fencing or posting, except at the expense of damaging trees with nails.‘
Under the bill, the purple paint marking property would need to consist of a vertical line at least eight inches long, and the bottom of the mark would have to be between three and five feet above the ground. The paint marks could not be more than 100 feet apart and would have to be placed so that they are readily visible to people approaching the property.
VanderWall said Arkansas adopted the nation’s first purple paint law in the late 1980s. As of Feb. 4, 2021, 13 states, including Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Pennsylvania, afford landowners this second option of marking their property, he said.
“Because many states have already adopted similar laws, purple boundary paint is readily available for purchase from retailers,‘ VanderWall said. “The color does not conflict with other markings and it is easy to see in an outdoor setting.‘
According to a Senate Fiscal Agency summary, the bill has three primary points: it would specify length and height requirements for purple paint marks, and require the paint used to be approved by the Department of Natural Resources; it would prohibit a person from removing or destroying a purple paint mark that had been placed on a tree or post; and it would prohibit a person from placing purple paint marks on another person’s property to prohibit hunting, fishing, trapping, or other recreational activities on that property.
VanderWall told the Cadillac News that he’s been approached by a number of constituents who are in favor of the idea, which has been tossed around in Lansing for a couple of years now.
It’s not uncommon, VanderWall said, to hear stories from property owners who report persistent trespassing issues and missing “No trespassing‘ signs that have been removed from trees and posts.
“People will remove the signs and they say, ‘I never saw any sign’ if they’re caught,‘ said VanderWall, who added this is especially prevalent on private property that abuts state-owned land used by the public for any number of purposes.
He said not only would using purple paint benefit property owners but land surveyors also have voiced their support for the idea, since they frequently run into issues with people tearing down the ribbons they put on trees to indicate property boundaries.
As for what type of paint can be used, VanderWall said while the bill indicates that it would have to be approved by the DNR, that does not mean it would have to be specialty or hard-to-obtain paint. He said the bill language refers merely to the specific shade of the purple being used.
If the bill is passed into law, an individual who violates it would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days’ imprisonment or a fine of at least $100 but not more than $500, or both. The court may order an individual who violates the law to pay the costs of prosecution. The act prescribes enhanced penalties for a second or subsequent violation within three years of a previous violation and allows the court to order that the person’s hunting, fishing, or trapping license be revoked and that the person not seek or possess a license for three years. Also, the court must order a person convicted of violating the law to make restitution for any damage arising out of the violation.
Senate Bill 106 now heads to the House of Representatives for further consideration.
VanderWall said he hopes the bill will be picked up soon in the House of Representatives; in the Senate the bill passed mostly along party lines, although VanderWall said objections to the idea have been somewhat vague, with some indicating they didn’t like the idea of marking up trees with paint.
One group that has expressed specific objections to the bill is the DNR.
“The DNR doesn’t view purple paint as an effective way to mark private property in Michigan and opposes the legislation for several reasons,‘ said Ed Golder, DNR public information officer, in an email to the Cadillac News.
The reasons listed by the DNR are the following:
• An inability to see paint on trees in low light situations
• The fact that some people have certain variations of color blindness and aren’t able to see the color purple
• The potential for improper markings of property lines with paint that cannot be easily removed in the way an improperly placed signed could be
• The general belief that private property signs are the known standard for marking property and are easily recognizable to the general public.
VanderWall said he’s been in discussions with stakeholders, including the DNR, to resolve any questions or concerns about the bill moving forward.