Country World Archives 2001-2008

Rural Rites: Purple paint serves as 'no trespassing' notice

By KARI KRAMER | East Texas Edition

Feb. 24, 2005 - While visiting the countryside of Texas, have you ever seen trees and posts with unique markings? That purple paint is not backwoods graffiti, it marks property boundaries and tells the public "No trespassing."

Purple paint began being used in Arkansas in 1989 as a way for property owners to notify the public of private land. In 1997, Texas agencies began considering the idea. Lieutenant Game Warden Lewis Rather, in Lubbock, said the public was responsible for the integration of 'purple paint' law in Texas.

"Ranchers all across the state (were) contacting their state representatives and stating that they were having problems with getting trespass cases filed because signs were torn down and fences were cut; thus, rendering the property not properly posted," said Rather.

Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas use purple paint as "no trespassing" notification, but at least 10 other states use colors from orange to lime green.

"The presence of purple paint is very identifiable and unique and that is why that color was decided upon," explained Rather.

In Texas, the law (HB 793) took effect in September of 1997, under the Texas Penal Code 30.05 Criminal Trespass, section 1, subsection D. The law requires that the purple paint markings must be vertical, at least eight-inches long and one-inch wide. The bottom of the mark should be between three and five feet above the ground. The markings can be no more than 100 feet apart in timberland and 1,000 feet apart on open land, and must be in a place visible by those approaching the property.

Since the implementation of the law, many people have come to use the paint on their property.

"A 'No trespassing' sign may be shot up or taken down and a fence may be cut, but a post or tree marked with purple paint is not as easily removed, therefore causing your property to be legally posted more effectively and for a longer period of time before the markings need to be replaced," said Rather.

He added that the use of purple paint appears to be a successful measure in notifying potential trespassers.

"Complaints received are down as far as trespassing on property marked with purple paint."

Trespassing occurs after a person has been notified that the property is off-limits, but remains on the property (this excludes emergency workers performing their duties). There are five ways to notify the public that trespassing is not permitted: through verbal or written notification, fencing and similar enclosures, signs posted on the property that are visible by the public, visible presence of crops, and using purple paint to post the property.

According to Rather, those who still insists on trespassing do so for a variety of reasons.

"They are usually trespassing to either fish in a stock tank on private property or do so right after they have shot a deer on private property and they are in the process of retrieving it," said Rather.

Trespassing is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, unless the intruder is carrying a firearm, which stands as Class A misdemeanor. Both are punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Purple paint should be taken seriously. As with other posted land, do not enter land marked with purple paint. Contact the landowner if for some reason you must enter the property.

If your property is marked with purple paint and a person trespasses, you may contact the appropriate authorities including your local sheriff's office or the the game warden's office. If you believe the person is poaching on your property, contact operation game thief at 1-800-792-GAME (4263).