Are non-maintained roads always private? How do you know if a road is private?

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Skippii, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. Skippii

    Skippii Milkshakes, my lad.

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    Often times, I'm out riding on dirt roads.

    Often, the road suddenly has a sign that says "no trespassing" or "Private Drive" in the middle. So, I turn around and find another road.

    Sometimes, there is a sign that says "End State Maintenence"
    Sometime, this sign is accompainied by another sign that says "Private" or "No Trespassing". So, I turn around.

    Sometime, there is just the "End State Maintenence" sign, and nothing else, and the road keeps going to connect to another main public road. I always figured this meant the road was still public, but didn't get plowed for snow or lined with gravel or something.

    But then I once found myself explaining to a Farmer why I was trespassing on his land. I explained I was a bit lost, following my GPS, and trying to get back to a main road. He was very polite, understanding, and said that back in the late 1800s, there had been a road there, but since then there had definately NOT been a road, and I was, in fact, in his cow pasture. I apologized, thanked him for his understanding, and went back the way I'd come.

    Certainly, there had been no indications of private property posted. Now I've just been told that End State Maintaince means "Private Property: Do not enter"....sometimes. Sometimes it just means that the road gets a bit rough, but is still open to the public, such as on National Forests.

    So, I'm confused. I don't want to trespass, but I don't want to give up riding on public, legal roads that aren't well graveled and steamrolled...those are the fun ones. How do I know?
    #1
  2. Grreatdog

    Grreatdog Long timer

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    End of state maintenance just means that VDOT maintenance ends. It could be a county road, a USFS road or a private road. If it looks to be reasonably well maintained and isn't posted, I would assume it is a county road. Most county roads are not marked in any way. And most maintained roads that are private are marked as such. So it sounds like you are already doing the right things.

    These are among the best maps I have found for accurately depicting state, county and USFS roads and trails in your area. I carry one for the Shenandoah 500 in case I ever get lost again. EMS and REI stores usually have these in stock.

    http://www.natgeomaps.com/ti_791
    #2
  3. kerhonky

    kerhonky Adventure Poser

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    In my experience managing public lands, there is no absolutely sure way to tell if a road is still open for public motor vehicle travel. Let's say you're riding on a public road that enters a piece of state land, and it says "End State Maintenance." The state may hold the position that beyond that sign the road is abandoned and therefore not open to public use. The town however, may claim that it still is used and therefore is a public highway. Who's right? The only way to figure it out is in court. There are so many permutations it's incredible. I can't think of any way that you could be anywhere near reasonably sure just from a sign.
    #3
  4. markk53

    markk53 jack of all trades...

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    We usually look for actual road signs and maps indicating the roads. A real state, county, township road sign posted on the road in Ohio means it is public. If we don't see a sign we don't go down the road.

    We've done some dual sporting on roads in WV, using maps that show every pubic road regardless of condition. Some are nothing more than a rough enduro route, others are good graded gravel, then there's everything between.

    But road signs give the best hint.
    #4
  5. kg4lho

    kg4lho Outside Sellin'

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    That's a big problem with GPSs in general. You may look and see what "is" a road to get round to somewhere else but when you get there, there either isn't a road or it's gated or posted/not state maintained. I turn around when it looks like state maintenance ends and is posted. I followed a county dirt road the other day, it turned into a two track path leading toward someone's farm/residence. It wasn't posted but I knew it was private, so I turned around and went somewhere else. You are doing right, you respect others private property, someday the shoe may be on the other foot. :freaky Wesley
    #5
  6. WanderingNewYorker

    WanderingNewYorker Rain, Rain Go Away

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    In New York that doesn't hold true. Many seasonal roads are owned/"maintained" by local governments and the state doesn't keep track of them. Sometimes even the local governments have only a vague idea of what they're responsible for and it's not uncommon for there to be disagreement between land owners, local governments, and the state as to who owns what and who has access to what.

    At least in New York if it's not labeled "Private Road" it's considered a public right of way, with all the restrictions that entails.
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  7. lightfighter

    lightfighter where does this go?

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    I cant say as to VA, but it is fairly well rooted in common-law principle that you cant be trespassing unless a "reasonable request" is made, whether that request be made in the form of gates, signage, or verbally. We have it good out here though. there is lots of state land that is entrusted to ranchers for grazing. most gates are either padlocked, or have a sign that says "please close gate".

    best practice is to be respectful. in my experience alot owners will tolerate some infringement if you arent being a problem otherwise.
    #7
  8. Range Motorsport

    Range Motorsport Junk collector

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    The problem around here comes when people claim a private road even though it's public. I see it all the time and I have removed several signs on public roads that were placed by people living on the road. Many of these are people who live off a seasonal road that runs into public trails/state land.
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  9. lightfighter

    lightfighter where does this go?

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    funny you say that... a few years ago, i was run off of state trust land with a frontend loader by a guy who claimed to own it. I know for a fact it was public land, but arguing with the toothy end of a bucket loader didnt seem worth the trouble...
    #9
  10. jfurf

    jfurf Been here awhile

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    I'm with lightfighter. If you're on a road (dirt or paved or otherwise), it's an easement unless clearly marked. The land owner has the burden of marking the road as private and forbidding trespassers.
    #10
  11. Zecatfish

    Zecatfish XTique Rider

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    State Maintence Ends: In Arkansas you can pretty much assume the county takes over from there. I got a US Forest Service Map a couple weeks ago, and you'd be surprised at the number of roads on it that are dead ends now. They end at a residence. Even when all the maps shows it goes through.
    We found 4 of them last weekend. Actually 3.
    The fourth went in to a field with a cattle guard, I think I found the original route but it wasn't the best route for our group of riders. It got narrow and steep as in straight up like a dozer cut it 50 years ago or something.

    Most land owners are understanding especially if you show them on the map or GPS that it shows it goes someplace. I've asked locals lots of times about alternate routes.
    #11