Hardware stores sell special purple paint that indicates a landowner has posted property as only accessible with permission. Credit: John Holyoke | BDN

This story was originally published in November 2019.

Have you ever been out in the woods and found a tree with a purple stripe painted on it? And if so, what did you do after that?

The correct answer, it turns out, is to turn around and exit the area. In recent years, the use of purple paint as a way to designate areas where access to land is limited to those who’ve received advance permission from the landowner has become quite prevalent.

According to Mark Latti, the communications director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the state’s “purple paint law” went into effect in 2011. Before that, the use of silver paint was the standard.

And not too many years ago, the customary way for a Maine landowner to post their property and let others know about any access restrictions was to nail signs to trees.

The DIF&W explained in a recent email blast that one vertical OSHA safety purple stripe that’s at least one inch wide and at least eight inches long is to be translated as “access by permission only” in the state of Maine. And that paint doesn’t have to be on a tree. It may also be on posts and stones, as long as the stripes are between three and five feet off the ground.

According to state law, the signs must be no more than 100 feet apart at locations that are readily visible to people approaching the property, as well as at all vehicular access points off a public road.

Hardware stores sell special paint for use in marking properties. The Lowe’s store in Brewer, for instance, sells a purple Krylon spray paint that’s labeled “No Hunting, Purple Marking for Boundaries.”

While Maine hunters enjoy a liberal access policy and often use the land of others without permission, many believe that in many cases, responsible hunters ought to ask before hunting on land they don’t own.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...