Newly added "no tresspassing" signs torn down on our land
December 8, 2017 9:12 AM   Subscribe

What should I do? How can I feel better about this?

We bought 13 acres of land in Vermont in March this year. We will be building a house on our land in the next 1-3 years. We live 5 minutes from our land. We go there with our dogs and do some clearing and hike around. We've been wearing orange vests just in case as it's bow season. Now I'm glad we have been.
Sunday last week we put up some "No Trespassing Signs". We didn't add our contact info at the time because we didn't bring a sharpie. We didn't put many up but were planning to get more. They are close enough together that they comply with state laws.
My husband returned yesterday to hike around with one of our dogs and some of the signs on the back boundary had been torn down and tossed on the ground. They're a plastic material so they had to be torn down to be removed from the nail.

Here is a link to the land survey we received when we bought the property. The yellow crosses show where the signs were put up and torn down. We know we put them on our land, it was marked when we got it (with orange tape mostly but there are also permanent markers) and the signs were pretty much next to the iron post that denotes the corner of the property line.
The land west of that boundary belongs to the sellers. They used to own most of the land in our area and we bought our lot from them. It's very possible people have permission from them to hunt on their property or it's entirely possible people have hunted there without asking permission. The sellers live on the other side of the country and our land was for sale for years. There is an old logging road going through our property up into the sellers property.
We have no idea who did this, which is partly why I'm annoyed, but I'm also annoyed because we're entitled to keep our land private. We walk our dogs around our land. I don't want people I don't know walking around my property with guns. We aren't rich people and we put all our money into purchasing this land to one day build a house there. I don't know why I feel the need to justify this.
I just feel uncomfortable that I have no idea who did this or how to deal with it. We're going to put the signs back up but what if this keeps happening? Who should I talk to? Would the realtor we used have advice (she's somewhat of a friend now and we rent her husband's families house)? Should we talk to someone at the town hall? How can I be less angry and less worried about this?

I don't want to feel unsafe going to our land with our dogs or by myself. At some point we will be living there and it will be our backyard. We have 13 acres, it's not feasible to fence it.
posted by shesbenevolent to Home & Garden (50 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Turn this into a positive and put up some trail cameras?

I think you can put up the signs with your contact info in a more permanent way. Then contact the sellers to see if this is common in their experience, or if they maybe gave permission long ago to a third party and forgot to notify them about a sale?

After all of that, I might assume it's teenagers until I see what the trail cams capture. I'm super sorry this is happening. I hope there's a quick satisfactory resolution. I think it's a good idea to contact the sellers. You might also contact whatever local gov't department oversees hunting in your area and find out what to do? Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 9:23 AM on December 8, 2017 [11 favorites]

Have you talked to the sellers yet? I would start there, with a spirit of neighborliness. If they allow people to hunt on their land, they may not have informed the hunters that they sold part of the property. Of course that doesn't justify anyone ripping posted signs down. (On that topic, ripping down the signs is such a dumbshit thing to do, but it's surprisingly common.).

Another thing that you can do is call the police or county sheriff non-emergency line and make a report. They won't do anything unless you have video evidence (like jbenben said, a good excuse to get a trail cam) but it doesn't hurt to get as much documentation as possible.

I know you don't have a lot of money, but can you afford to run a partial fence along that corner where the signs were ripped down?
posted by muddgirl at 9:26 AM on December 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

I've been a rural teenager, and No Trespassing signs appearing on unused land that I was used to traipsing through were certainly seen as a moral affront. I'm not saying that they were right to tear down your signs. They weren't. But it was almost certainly done more out of a sense of teenage defiance than actual malice.

I will also say, that once you start building your house, showing a permanent presence on your land, and talking to your neighbours, this will mostly stop being a problem. Rural folk, even teenagers, are much more conditioned to respect the ownership of land people live on than empty land with absentee owners.

Of course, once you live there and get to know the people, you may find that you don't mind so much if they continue using a snowmobile trail that cuts through a corner of your back acres.

Oh and hunting, of course, is a different concern. Perhaps consider replacing the "No Trespassing" signs with "Private Property - No Hunting" signs in the meantime. Those will at least be less of an affront to the teenagers.
posted by 256 at 9:30 AM on December 8, 2017 [39 favorites]

Response by poster: Sorry to threadsit already but I linked to the signs but wasn't accurate about the description here. They say


With all due respect I understand why they most likely did it but it's not satisfactory to me. I do come from a rural area myself, in the UK. I don't think it matters if I live on the property or not. I go there with my husband and dogs. I don't want to run in to someone on my property. I didn't put all my money into buying a $65k plot of land to share with other people. I want it to be private. There are hundreds of acres around us that belong to the sellers, people can continue to hunt/trespass there. Our 13 acres is a drop in the ocean. Oh and the trail doesn't go through the back corner, it goes though the entire depth of out property past where our house is going to be.
Whether they're annoyed at our signs or not, they have no right to rip them down. I think it's a fairly valid assumption that the people who did this probably hunt and carry guns and I feel pretty uncomfortable with that. I do not own guns. I have no objections or judgments about people hunting. I do object to them doing it on my land.
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:40 AM on December 8, 2017

Response by poster: The red line here is the approximate path of the logging road. Up to the bend will be our gravel driveway. Right now it's just dirt.

Going away again now.
posted by shesbenevolent at 9:44 AM on December 8, 2017

I don't think it matters if I live on the property or not. I go there with my husband and dogs. I don't want to run in to someone on my property. I didn't put all my money into buying a $65k plot of land to share with other people. I want it to be private. There are hundreds of acres around us that belong to the sellers, people can continue to hunt/trespass there. Our 13 acres is a drop in the ocean. Oh and the trail doesn't go through the back corner, it goes though the entire depth of out property past where our house is going to be. Whether they're annoyed at our signs or not, they have no right to rip them down.

I mean, all of this may be true, but you can't make the people who live there suddenly agree with you on all of it. And whether they're in the wrong (legally or morally) is really neither here nor there when it comes to finding a good solution.

(As an aside, I confess that, even as an adult (with much more respect for property rights than I had as a teenager), if I'm walking through the country and come upon a sign that says "No Trespassing, Violators will be Prosecuted." on a big chunk of empty unfenced land, I'm rolling my eyes and carrying right on through. That's a pretty tone deaf and aggressive sign.)

So you're going to need to figure out how you proceed because you won't be able to get everything you want (no fence and no trespassers) without really pissing off your neighbours. And you really don't want to start pissing off your neighbours before you even build your house.

Your options are basically:

1. Build a fence. A big one, or one with barbed wire because people will just jump a standard wire fence. Pissed of neighbour quotient: non-zero but acceptable. Success at stopping trespassing: Very good.

2. Double down on the signage. Set up cameras and, when you catch trespassers, get the police involved. Pissed off neighbour quotient: Very high. Success at stopping trespassing: low to moderate

3. Talk to your new neighbours and let them know that you're concerned about hunting and safety. Listen to what they say and try to understand them. Don't be nearly as hardline as you are coming across here. Pissed off neighbour quotient: Negative; you are building relationships. Success at stopping trespassing: Moderate

I highly recommend course of action number 3, but if that's unacceptable to you, I highly suggest against course of action number 2. If you can't come around to number 3, you need to soak the cost of number 1.

You can't change the way people think about unoccupied land with a sign, you can only change the way they think about you.
posted by 256 at 10:01 AM on December 8, 2017 [53 favorites]

I think folks are explaining why this likely happened because you asked how you can be "less worried and less angry" about it, not because they are justifying it.

As others have said, ask the sellers about it; they may be able to guess who is most likely to be on the land. If they can't help, you could contact the police about the vandalism and trespassing, but they aren't going to be able to do much of anything about it either, so I wouldn't recommend it (though I would record dates of incidents on the off chance that things escalate).

But your best option is to get to know your neighbors. Ideally with a plate of cookies and a few casual meetings around town before you bring this up. "Should" you have to do this to keep people off your land, no, but if you want a solution, this is your best bet.

Some obvious development along the property line will also help. Gardens, sheds, firepits, clearings with outdoor furniture, etc. That will make it seem less like wooded Commons and more like someone's yard.
posted by metasarah at 10:02 AM on December 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yeah, talk to the sellers, and maybe change to "no hunting" signs.

It's been a while since I lived in rural Vermont, but in my experience it's best to gather information and advice from people who know the area, and take your time. Luckily, you have that luxury here. You absolutely have a good resource in your realtor. As far as how to feel less upset about this, I think knowledge will really help, and making your own connections in the area. My one continuing problem in Vermont was with a neighbor who had recently moved to the area and kept trying to destroy my right of way by putting stuff in it. Other neighbors knew about it and would alert me if they saw him doing it. I also learned that the town constable was a better resource than the police. All of that will vary by your precise location though.
posted by BibiRose at 10:03 AM on December 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

I probably don't need to add this, but go to town meetings. If there are local charities, like for food-insecure community members, start donating now. If a local person is collecting for the Vermont Children's aid society or similar, sign up for a continuing contribution. All of these things will get you connections.
posted by BibiRose at 10:06 AM on December 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

That sign is pretty aggressive.

And you're being pretty aggressive here, too. I understand that you're angry and uncomfortable with what you feel is a (potentially dangerous) violation of your personal space--but apparently, just suggesting that it might be teenagers, that it might resolve itself, or that you might handle this by making connections instead of bringing out the big guns is enough to set you on a new rant.

Now, I'm pretty sympathetic to this issue; my family has had a lot of issues with people using our land in disrespectful (ATVs) or dangerous (hunting) ways, without our permission and in violation of posted signs. I'm pointing this out because your stance here is making me feel unsympathetic to you.

I imagine it from the point of view of the person who might have put up the sign: This person bought this land I'm used to being able to use, and they're being dicks about it. Man, enclosure sucks. I'd be tempted to tear down that sign myself.

Diplomacy will often get you farther, especially if it's your neighbors and not, say, people coming from another area.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 10:10 AM on December 8, 2017 [40 favorites]

I would try reaching out to the sellers as well as everyone owning neighboring land to let them know that you bought the property. I would start it as a "hey just getting to know everyone" conversation, and likely mention what happened with the signs.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:11 AM on December 8, 2017 [4 favorites]

We're going to put the signs back up but what if this keeps happening? Well, you might be borrowing trouble here a bit. It could be that no one will touch them when you put them back up.

Who should I talk to? I would talk to all the neighbors in your area. I wouldn't start with the signs, but by introducing yourself and talking about how you're going to build a house there soon and what you like about it. Then ask if they know who usually uses the trail and if anyone used to have permission to hunt in the area.

How can I be less angry and less worried about this? I think part of what might be making this so emotionally difficult is that the time when you first buy a property or a house can be really emotional. It's scary and vulnerable and exciting. It might help to presume that whoever ripped them down is some teenager out on a lark. Assume incompetence/impulsiveness rather than maliciousness.

The real sticking point here is the trail that cuts through your property. A trail usually means people walk on it. You might have better luck with signs that are just about no hunting rather than no trespassing. If you want to further discourage people from using the trail, you could put up gates at either end of the trail on your property. I see this in rural areas sometimes--just a freestanding fence over only the trail. Of course you can walk around it, but it makes the message pretty clear.

On preview, I agree with poster 256, especially this part: "I confess that, even as an adult (with much more respect for property rights than I had as a teenager), if I'm walking through the country and come upon a sign that says "No Trespassing, Violators will be Prosecuted." on a big chunk of empty unfenced land, I'm rolling my eyes and carrying right on through. That's a pretty tone deaf and aggressive sign."

My bona fides: grew up in a very rural area on 10.5 acres on a dead end road. The neighbor's cows would occasionally stampede through our property. Other neighbors would shoot coyotes and deer from their back porch. Perhaps the American rural experience is different than the UK.

Once you live there, it will significantly change how people interact with your property fwiw. So I wouldn't worry as much about that. Continue to wear safety orange in hunting season if you're out in the woods--we always do that even though we haven't had hunters on our property in years.
posted by purple_bird at 10:12 AM on December 8, 2017 [12 favorites]

"No Trespassing, Violators will be Prosecuted." on a big chunk of empty unfenced land, I'm rolling my eyes and carrying right on through"

I... pretty much would do the same thing. You want hunters to stay off of your land, not set yourself up to be seen as the irrational outsider who doesn't belong and everybody learns to mostly ignore. Build a consensus to your view and work the local social network with pies and smiles. Focus on the fact that you want a particular result, and work towards that. It will be ever so much easier for you if you manage the optics of the situation and focus less on the black and white, right and wrong aspects.

I agree that the sign is particularly aggressive, and I'm chiming in because I feel you aggressively responded to a commenter who was only trying to help. This approach isn't going to win you advocates in the community, and people (well, teenagers) might learn to cut across your land just to piss you off.
posted by everythings_interrelated at 10:18 AM on December 8, 2017 [21 favorites]

What actually happened is that someone tore down your signs.

What you are reacting to is the idea that strangers will continue to traipse through your property while you are building and/or living there, and that you won't be able to feel safe and comfortable on the land you've committed to.

Those are actually two different things. While many people might tear down a sign that appears suddenly (especially if they believe that the parcel is still owned by absentee landlords, because why not walk on the land those people NEVER EVEN VISIT), that's very different from continuing to walk through property once it's obviously occupied and you know (or at least know of) the people who own it.

The advice here for preventing the very small problem (torn down sign!) from becoming a big problem (people traipsing by your future house) is good, and you have plenty of time to enact it.
posted by Ausamor at 10:22 AM on December 8, 2017 [18 favorites]

You say you didn't list your name on the signs because you didn't have a sharpie... I think that's not actually required unless you put up no hunting except by permission signs. What is required by the statute however is that you date the signs and repost annually.

I'm not sure what the case law is in BY on whether this affects validity or not, but not dating them makes it seem like you're not playing by the rules.

Also you write, "We didn't put many up but were planning to get more. They are close enough together that they comply with state laws."

This makes it sound to me like you didn't post the whole property? But unless you put up signs 400 ft apart around the entire boundary... well you haven't actually posted the property.
posted by Jahaza at 10:37 AM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think a useful reframing might be thinking about it in the terms you’re already familiar with.

So, for example, take a suburban house. Even though every bit of that property is rightfully yours, if you don’t put up a fence, people will walk on the sidewalk next to your property and sometimes let their dogs pee on your yard. Solicitors will leave flyers on your doorstep. Sometimes kids will cut the corner if you are on a corner lot. If they throw something and it lands on your property, they will go retrieve it. Even though it is 100% private property, the existing norms allow for a little wiggle room. Nobody acts like your yard is a lake of fire. People don’t usually post big “no trespassing” signs at the very outer edge of their property- and if they do, even though it’s their legal right, they are viewed as unfriendly and not part of the community.

Rural norms are also strong about trespassing - even stronger in many ways than suburban norms. Once you build a house there, nobody will dream of setting foot on your driveway. No one will hunt on your occupied land. You can feel safe and secure that once you are physically present there, people will be very, very respectful of your boundaries.

But unfortunately, there are some strong norms that unoccupied land is free, and the only people who stop people from crossing unoccupied land are Snidely Whiplash folks - after all, who does it harm? There’s strong respect for privacy, but not so much for absentee property. And there’s absolutely nothing you can do to alter that norm, because it’s far too strongly rooted. What you can do is fit your land into the other norm - that of a good neighbor who likes their privacy.
posted by corb at 10:40 AM on December 8, 2017 [33 favorites]

How can I be less angry and less worried about this?

Remember (or imagine) being 13 years old and exploring and having attitudes like "the land belongs to everyone (maaan)." You'll feel less scared if you picture this as a couple of kids running around, jumping over logs, throwing pinecones at each other and generally just being kids. I think picturing these people as aggressive, threatening people with guns is causing some of your feelings.
posted by salvia at 10:45 AM on December 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

Since you live five minutes away, you probably know a bunch of your neighbors, or at least know who they are. Talk to them. Let them know you've bought the parcel - if it's been for sale for years and the sellers have been absent for a long time as well, then the locals who don't know it's a fellow neighbor who bought it are likely to be pissed that some rando from Away is suddenly posting no trespassing signs.
posted by rtha at 11:06 AM on December 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Some additional points.
- I'm not being aggressive. I am justifying my right to determine the use of my land. Suggestions to talk to neighbors, to talk to the seller, they're welcome and I will definitely do those things. At no point did I reject those suggestions. Perhaps people feel entitled to use our land the same way they're used to but I don't agree with it and I bought the land and pay the mortgage so I think it's my right to feel that way. I have never and would never rip down someones signs or trespass on their land if they didn't want me to. I respect other peoples rights over their own land and I wouldn't dream of defying that.
- Properties around us and all over this area have these exact same signs, they're white instead of yellow but the wording is exactly the same. Our land already has a bunch of old white versions of these signs. We were adding additional signs. If our signs are aggressive then so are everyone else's in Southwest VT. You wouldn't think people would be so mad about something that's common place.
- There seems to be an assumption that we don't want to mix with anyone around here and I'm not sure why my desire to keep our land private suggests otherwise. I intend to attend town meetings. We talk to locals whenever we can. We'd like to be friends with our neighbors. Someone who lives on the same road a minutes drive away performed our soil tests and designed our septic system. The contractor we will be using is local and has been to our land with us. We've moved here to live, not to keep a second home. I grew up in a small village where everyone knew each other. It was part of the reason I wanted to live in the country again.
- Our than the logging road our land is dense woodland. Nothing but trees. Unless you are at the clearing where the house is to be built, you cannot tell whether there is a house or anything else there. The location where the signs were ripped down is at the boundary at the back of the lot and nowhere near where the house will be. I think people are assuming it will be obvious not to trespass but it's really not.
- Jahaza according to the VT posting laws "Putting up posted signs conveys a message to ask first or keep out. For extra assurance, you can choose to register your posted land. Often referred to 'legally posted,' it means hunting, fishing and/or trapping is prohibited without written permission. " We should have also dated them, you're right. Definitely our bad on that. This interpretation of the law explains why the name and address are on there I guess. I added above that there are already other posted signs and we were just adding additional signs.
- The contract explicitly said the section of the logging road on our property is private and there is no right of way for other parties. It was discussed with the sellers during negotiations.
- Salvia and rtha I think you're pretty spot on there.

- We're going to introduce ourselves to the neighbors tomorrow. We have seen them but haven't gotten around to meeting them yet. The neighbors on one side bought their house right before we bought our land. We actually looked at that house right before them. The neighbors on the other side we don't know how long they've been there. The back of our land where the signs were torn down abuts hundreds of acres of the sellers unused land.
We should have introduced ourselves already but we've been busy getting settled at our rental and with other life stuff and didn't prioritize it. We want the neighbors to know us so they're not wondering why 2 strangers are walking around near their land. And we want to be there if they ever need us.
- I considered reaching out to the seller and our realtor so I think we'll do that.

I've gotten the message from people who think I'm aggressive and unreasonable, I don't need more of those comments. If you disagree with my reasons for feeling this way fine but you're not helping me.
That's the last I have to contribute. Thanks for the suggestions and for pointing out that I have two issues, being annoyed that someone ripped down something they didn't have the right to rip down, and my concern over people walking around my property especially with guns. Two different things to unpack. I really appreciate it.
posted by shesbenevolent at 11:29 AM on December 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

That's a pretty tone deaf and aggressive sign.

For what it is worth, that is the official language for legally posted land in Vermont. They are a common sight throughout the state.

I agree that your first step in introducing yourself to your new neighbors, reposting your land completely and legally (including recording it at the Town Clerk), and not making unfounded assumptions about who might have ripped down your signs and why. You might also talk to whoever owns the land around you about blazing a new trail that doesn't cross your property.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:31 AM on December 8, 2017 [11 favorites]

Plates of cookies? Pies and smiles? I'm cringing while reading here. Would anyone be suggesting that a man do this crap? UGH. If it is teenagers, pies and smiles and cookies and unicorn farts and pretty rainbows and glitter aren't going to help, since they won't be on the receiving end. Unless of course she should walk the perimeter of her property every day, handing out rice crispy treats.

I do not think there was any aggression in the tone of the OP on her follow-ups. There are some weird takes here.

OP, I totally understand where you're coming from. You now feel unsafe because you don't know who took the signs down. You want to be able to use your own property without fear of running into anyone, and that is your right. I have the feeling that this is just going to resolve itself as people see the house being built, or as teenagers move on to another location. I agree with Rock Steady that you may want to ask around about a new trail.

And...there is nothing wrong with the sign! It's a standard sign. I see the exact same one being sold in stores where I live (rural NJ).
posted by the webmistress at 11:36 AM on December 8, 2017 [19 favorites]

I also don't think it's hostile to put up no trespassing signs. It's your property - put up your signs. I also own a parcel on which I don't reside. It's similarly rural and consists of trees with with a logging road through it. It's private property - it's in my best interest to mark it as such for all sorts of reasons. Anyway - I have an aggressive neighbor who likes to tear down the signs and markings we post that border his lot. He even rips out my corner posts. Jerk. We've got some jackasses who ride up our private road on their ATV's too - with their guns. Many people in the area find our property a truly enjoyable place to take a walk despite our signs. So I sympathize - I'm in a bit of the same position.

But I'm fairly resigned that I can't control everything and everyone who does what they want over there. Like you - I can't fence it. I can't employ someone to walk my lot line every night. We are considering putting up much hardier signage. Stuff that's tougher to tear down.

Most recently, I've put up a new marker that I consider a test and next time I'm out - we'll see if that's still standing. If he's destroyed this one too - trail cameras are my next move. At least then we'll have some evidence if we need to escalate for some reason.

While I understand how upsetting it can be - you might have to get a bit zen/long term about this. Honestly, I'd put my signs back up - hardier ones. I'd want to get people used to the fact that there are new owners. I completely disagree that no trespassing signs are aggressive - they can be a legal necessity. Get some trail cameras installed if you're truly concerned. Be prepared for those to be damaged too. And yes - make yourselves known to the neighbors who border your property. You want allies.
posted by rdnnyc at 11:38 AM on December 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

I don't think you're doing anything terrible, and I understand how you feel. However, I really want to underline what some other posters have said about cultural norms.

I grew up mostly in urban Ontario and have spent a good chunk of my life in rural Nova Scotia. The expectations about property are very, very different. There are a lot of cultural similarities between Vermont and Nova Scotia.

In rural Nova Scotia, it's much more widely accepted to use others' land. Walking across it is totally normal. Going across it on a four-wheeler (an ATV) is very normal. Hunting on it... well, pretty normal too. People feel double entitled to do it if (they think) you're not using the land, and even more so if you're someone "from away" who now owns the land but doesn't use it. (Yes, this is problematic.)

What happens often near where I live is that people "from away" buy land that has been treated as public land for many years. Then they put up fences and signs, and people who used to go for walks on the land, or kids who used to go sliding the in the snow, or people who used to cut through it all feel slighted. It also seems to them that the people from away are using their money to take something communal away from the community.

None of this is to say that you're wrong to feel the way you do. But regardless of how you decide to deal with it, you should understand the cultural expectations in your new neighbourhood. You don't need to follow them, but you should be aware of them so that you can understand other people's actions.
posted by MangoNews at 11:53 AM on December 8, 2017 [17 favorites]

I'm really sorry you're dealing with this, and even sorrier that you're being ripped a new one here. I'm sure that's not helping.

I grew up in an extremely rural area in the US; our home was 2.5 miles down a shared dirt road, and we owned ~17 acres of private land. The people saying that the illegal use of your land will stop when you break ground on your new house are ... misguided. Maybe it sometimes works that way in some places, but in plenty of others hunters and other would-be trespassers don't give a single fuck about whether or not you're using the land they want to use. It's much better to nip this problem in the bud now than to let these folks continue using the land for the next 1-3 years while you prepare to build.

Putting up new, sturdier signs looks like the right move, and I like the idea of trail cameras. I wouldn't be afraid to ask the local fish and game warden for assistance if it came to that, either.

Also there is nothing wrong with your sign ffs.

I hope you get this resolved so that you, your husband, and your dogs can all feel safe on the property.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 11:55 AM on December 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I want to rescind my comment about the signs being aggressive. They would be considered overly aggressive in the rural areas I am most familiar with, but given that they seem to be standardized signs in your region removes that concern.
posted by 256 at 12:01 PM on December 8, 2017 [7 favorites]

Also, I missed the fact that it is a logging road and not a trail. If it is a Class 4 road, it is a public right-of-way. I assume you would have learned about that from your realtor, but you can check the maps for your town here.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:10 PM on December 8, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'm in Maine, which has a similar ethos. Somebody's pissed because they want to hunt on your land, or because they have some sense that you are newcomers intruding on space they perceive as theirs or as public. Just post more signs. You're going to live there and you have nothing to gain by escalating any pissing match. You bought land. You want to use it. You can even make signs on a copier, and use a staplegun to affix them. I would report the sign removal to the police, but not as a big deal. It's a good way to talk to somebody local.

In addition to signs, a purple blaze also means No Trespassing in many states, but I don't see that Vt has implemented this. Maine has. It's easier to mark a property and hard to tear down.

In hunting season, just wear blaze orange. There are stupid accidents every year. It's not worth getting hurt.

You have a logging road and if it has been in open and notorious use, others could have the legal right to use it. IANAL. Talk to a real estate lawyer; this is probably an answered question in real estate. Logging roads may well have specific regs. Also, property line fights are a huge drag, consider either a survey or marking your property lines in a fairly obvious way. In my experience, sellers and RE agents are overly optimistic.

Maybe you have some rednecks as neighbors, but they may also have good characteristics. I live in a redneck-ish town, was pleased to see the Obama sign next door when I moved in. People will surprise you. Keep an open mind about the neighbors, and try not to let this make you too crazy.

Congratulations on the new property!
posted by theora55 at 1:28 PM on December 8, 2017 [9 favorites]

I think the people calling the signs aggressive don't understand that they're the standard sign that you buy 100 to a roll and staple up and that they're everywhere in rural areas.

I would be upset too. I have acreage in upstate NY and though I'm not occupying the house in any significant way, I do go up there with my dog hiking from time to time...the last thing I want is to hunters doing their thing on my property while I'm traipsing through it with my dog.
The first thing I did was put up the exact same signs you did.

I don't have a solution to your problem other than the very good suggestions given thus far, I just wanted to reassure you that you're well within your rights to not want people on your land.
posted by newpotato at 1:44 PM on December 8, 2017 [5 favorites]

Chiming in to say that your signage solution, while laudable and perhaps even required by law, is (by definition actually) going to draw attention to your property. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just something to be aware of with property, doubly so for unattended property, because my ethos of keeping people and property safe and unmolested in rural Alabama (be it actual owned property or hunting camps or whatnot) relies heavily on two things: being discreet and not making enemies.

Being discreet includes mostly involves not leaving expensive things unattended and not announcing when you leave (if you do have *things* you leave behind). There's also the issues of not making it a point to stand out nor do things that are, or may be construed as offensive to others, which is where we come to the not making enemies part of things.

So, back to the point, it's a balancing act of those two things when it comes to actual practical safety and security. It's even more finicky since you're not on the land full time yet. I think that's what folks are getting at with their comments about passive/practical solutions as opposed to active/legal solutions that are, again from my experience, ineffective to the point of their not being worth the additional trouble. Seriously, not that you said as much, but if you find yourself going full motion trail camera detective to get some info to turn over to the police then you need to stop and evaluate things because it's going to be a lot of work to catch only the dumbest of criminals who, as of yet, have yet to do anything besides tear down some signs. Seriously, if it's a neighbor and they become malicious then they can inflict far more damage to property far easier than it would be for you to collect enough evidence to grant you recompense in criminal or civil court.

Make friends, be present on your land, wear your blaze orange, leave nothing of value around unattended until you're ready to secure it and/or monitor it and you'll be fine. If you get into a pissing match with locals or teenagers then you're simply more likely to cause yourself more tangible problems than you might be considering.

Rural people will respect the land as yours as they become more accustomed to you being on it and then you're well on your way to becoming less of the other and more of a friend, until then, tread lightly and they'll do the same (because you'll be giving them no reason not to).
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:52 PM on December 8, 2017 [6 favorites]

Plates of cookies? Pies and smiles? I'm cringing while reading here. Would anyone be suggesting that a man do this crap? UGH.

Speaking as a man who regularly introduces himself to new people by using baked goods, yes, I would absolutely suggest that a man do this. In fact, I'm recommending that right now. Parasite Unseen hereby recommends that the man or men in this situation make a pie and bring it to the neighbors and smile while they do it. In my experience there are two advantages over a man doing this instead of a woman.

The first is ethical; men should carry their share of the social burden. The second is practical; because of patriarchal norms, a man performing this sort of work will not-quite-but-damn-near universally be perceived as making more of an effort and will be regarded as going above and beyond the call of duty in a way that a woman often simply won't.

I introduced myself to my next door neighbors with a plate of brownies. I made a birthday cake for someone I'd never met to introduce myself to my now-fiancee's friends. My fiancee's co-workers, most of whom I have never met, have now eaten four of my pies and they'll eat two more before this month is out. I’ve mailed pumpkin bread, zucchini bread and banana bread to people with whom my relationship is solely confined to being in the same online gaming guild. I've handed out my cookies and brownies at Burning Man (only a fraction of which were… um… enhanced).

People really respond to a man baking and reaching out. We're so conditioned to men being thoughtless and standoffish that any small effort makes a big impression on people. If I was trying to build alliances with my neighbors, being a man who shows up with smiles and baked goods is exactly how I would do it.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 2:21 PM on December 8, 2017 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: The “logging road” isn’t paved and never has been. It’s basically a wide path cleared long ago when all the land was owned by the sellers. You could probably technically drive up in a car or truck if you really wanted to. It was discussed at length when we bought and our lawyer and realtor ensured no one has access except us.
I want to reiterate I don’t think it’s the neighbors. I’m looking forward to meeting them.
I’m glad I’ve been vindicated on the sign issue. I went to Home Depot on the way home to see what other options they had for signs and they only had the ones we got already. On my drive home from work I was more aware than ever of the fact that these signs are absolutely everywhere.
And no worries currently about security. There are no buildings of any kind and we don’t leave anything there. We’re so close we wouldn’t even need to.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by shesbenevolent at 3:01 PM on December 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm from Montana where there's lots of land. The waist high post and wire fences plus signs were a bit of a deterrent for marking off land. Plus it will show if people are climbing over a certain area because it will get crushed down. However, as pointed out above, it would be nearly impossible to keep everyone out. My assumption is that it's kids wandering around.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:40 PM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is purple paint a valid no trespass marker in Vermont? In the American south, it is. If you can use paint instead of signs it’ll definitely prevent signs from being removed. It’s also more subtle than the signs while being legally enforceable.
posted by bilabial at 6:14 PM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

The “logging road” isn’t paved and never has been. It’s basically a wide path cleared long ago when all the land was owned by the sellers. You could probably technically drive up in a car or truck if you really wanted to. It was discussed at length when we bought and our lawyer and realtor ensured no one has access except us.

You should nonetheless be aware that the neighbors may have acquired what's called an "easement by prescription" if they have routinely used the road over the years. That is, by making a certain use of the property for years without objection from the owner, they may have gained a right to continue to do so. I'm definitely not an expert in Vermont real estate law, but it looks like, at least, the concept exists in Vermont.

People tearing down your signs are not mentally yelling "easement by prescription!" but the mere fact that the seller doesn't want to believe that an easement exists doesn't mean it doesn't. If the easement has come into existence, no lawyer or realtor can vanish it by force of will or contract with you. If you think it's likely that people may continue to use the old logging road, you would be well-advised to consult a local attorney to determine whether an easement might exist.
posted by praemunire at 7:30 PM on December 8, 2017 [8 favorites]

Is purple paint a valid no trespass marker in Vermont? In the American south, it is. ... while being legally enforceable.

I've done my fair share of wandering, fishing, and hunting behind dogs in Alabama and Mississippi and I've never seen purple paint on trees. I'm not saying you're wrong but I would not have put two and two together on that one. That's not to say that I didn't miss that question on the hunting license test back in the day but it's not ringing any bells with me. I've seen orange tape before but the meaning can range from "cut down this tree" to "don't cut down these trees" to "this way back home/truck" to "this is a property line".

Much like the format of the sign mentioned by the OP being quite unfamiliar to me, the most commonly seen sign here (I'd say 80% of them that I've seen) looks like this around here, this thread has been a bit of a education regarding localized norms and, I think, requirements.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:35 PM on December 8, 2017

I have a cabin in the ADK. I would be persistent with the signs. I would get an orange vest for your dog(s) too. I did not know about the purple paint thing and many may not, but I see no downside in marking the property boundaries with purple paint. The ones who know what it means, know what it means, no trespassing. The ones that don't, will know that it means something and that it means someone is out in the woods marking a boundary for some reason. What is the downside of doing it besides $40 in paint and brushes and time?

Also, when out walking with your dogs, I would make sure to keep them within your property line. One, it shows you respect the property lines, and two, it will keep your dogs safer.
posted by AugustWest at 8:39 PM on December 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd just add that when you talk to your neighbors you may want to ask about what local norms around posting no trespassing signs are and what the expected reception is. I have relatives in rural Maine who told me that if they posted it'd be viewed as an invitation to vandalism. Their situation isn't yours but you probably want to know the baseline response is going to be, independent of legal rights.
posted by mark k at 9:04 PM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

As a resident of Vermont for thirty years I want to make two comments. The sight of no trespassing signs in Vermont is of fairly recent vintage, last 15 years or so. There is an impression (perhaps false) that these no trespassing lands are owned by out of staters. There is a historical tradition of open land access to other Vermonters. A fence will definitely make things worse.You may be in the middle of a culture war. Over the 30 years we have lived in rural Vermont I have become used to the occasional stranger in our woods. It has been an acclimatization process. I am more concerned about opioid related burglaries than an old Vermonter wandering in the forest because he/she has always done so.

Far more effective than no trespassing signs and respected by most Vermonters are Hunting Safety Zone signs. available from the DNR. Put these up and see if you don't have significantly less persons on your property.
posted by Xurando at 7:37 AM on December 9, 2017 [12 favorites]

Rural norms are also strong about trespassing - even stronger in many ways than suburban norms... No one will hunt on your occupied land.
posted by corb

Maybe this is true where you live but it is not universal. I have friends who have had hunters cut the lock off their driveway gate and install their own lock. Another friend confronted a hunter on his property, only to have the hunter come back in the middle of the night, knock on the door and beat my friend up so badly he ended up in the hospital.

I live on 34 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains. We have "No Hunting" signs on our property and trail cameras to keep an eye on things. But we find brass and shells, so we know they're just walking past the signs. There isn't an easy answer here.
posted by workerant at 8:27 AM on December 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

Cannot speak to living in a rural area as I never did, but my family did have a prefab in a part of the state that was surrounded by undeveloped lots where we spent weekends. As a kid, if I saw a No Trespassing sign, I stayed away. Why? Because I knew someone was out there somewhere who didn't want me there, and that was that. I did cut through backyards in my suburban neighborhood at that age, but nobody put up signs not to do that, and the one time a woman yelled at me not to cross her land, I was so mortified I never went near her property again. I was indignant as well, since all I was doing was crossing on the back part of the lot, but... the point is, you put the signs up and you have the right to determine who gets to be on your land. Period. So you can make yourself feel better by knowing it is your right to enforce that, within legal means of course. Just don't resort to measures like this.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 2:16 PM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think it will help when you put your name and an (802) phone number on there. As nosy people, my mom and I have been known to stop the car and go see whose name is on the property when we see those signs around her town in Vermont. If there's no name, we presume it's some rich, terrible flatlander.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:25 PM on December 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

We should have also dated them, you're right. Definitely our bad on that. This interpretation of the law explains why the name and address are on there I guess. I added above that there are already other posted signs and we were just adding additional signs.

Welcome to Vermont! An awful lot of this depends where you live. I was in this situation and eventually wound up getting to know my neighbors and giving up on the No Tresspassing signs but that was because it was a futile endeavor IN MY LOCATION which it may not be in yours.

So you may be dealing with a number of things

- wiseass kids
- hardliner people and/or game wardens who were fussy that your signs weren't letter-of-the-law
- neighbors who contest the boundary
- really angry hunters

I think those are the order of liklihood. Realistically, you feel how you feel and you are allowed to. Also realistically there is an existing culture where you have decided to move (I did this too, welcome!) and you'll at least need to know what that is in order to work within it. Wishing it isn't so isn't going to get you there.

So I guess I'd think some more, in light of this conversation what your real goal is:

- keeping out all tresspassers?
- being respecrted as the new people in town?
- keeping out people with guns but allowing other people in?
- working on your own emotional upheaval as the result of this?
- something else?

Because honestly, some of these goals are going to conflict, and you may want to put them in order.

In answer to your specific original question

- realtor might be helpful, town clerk is totally a crapshoot
- talking to neighbors is always a good idea
- learning more background about your town will be a good idea. Maybe this is a "thing that happens" maybe it's unuaul. Figuring out where to slot it will help you determine what to do. I live in Randolph, feel free to DM me if you want to just talk Vermont specifics.
posted by jessamyn at 3:31 PM on December 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Definitely some more helpful answers. Thank you!
- Last comment on the logging ‘road’. There are no easements. Our real estate lawyer checked everything. We specifically had that looked into. No one else has a legal right to the logging ‘road’.
- My co-worker lives in NW Mass and she suggested purple paint. It’s not a big thing here but she said they do it. There’s no harm trying?
- Our dogs wear orange vests just like us :)
- We put the signs up last week after many walks around our boundaries to make sure we know what is ours. It was all marked when we bought it. One day I realized I was a couple trees outside the boundary and I was mortified. I’m a real rule follower so I overthink these things. I’m sure why I have such a strong reaction to all of this.
And I think that’s what upset me the most. I would never ever do this. It’s the ripping down part. I am always so concerned of being respectful to people that if people disrespect me, whatever the reason it makes me feel personally offended. Perhaps that’s really dumb of me and I’m too sensitive but I am who I am!
- Definitely will be putting our name, address and 802 number on them!
- When driving the road to our land today, almost every single property has our exact signs. Almost all of them.
- I still really like the idea of trail cams. I’d love to see the wildlife. I’ve seen deer and turkey tracks.
- Thanks jessamyn ! Definitely will be in touch!
posted by shesbenevolent at 3:56 PM on December 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

If it's a teenager, no amount of signage will change anything. Trespassing is part of the fun. I know I took my share of signs down as a kid. When you meet the neighbors see which of them has teens and make an effort to introduce yourself to them.
posted by Marinara at 5:19 PM on December 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the fact that you are more visible on the property will be of great benefit to your plight. I grew up in rural VT and I am not surprised that those signs were torn down if you weren’t living at the property when they were put up.

Also people in Vermont are really really really NICE. Even the dumbo kid who tore your sign down ! Once you meet your neighbors and your community I think your heart will soften to the rascals a bit. I don’t blame you at all for not wanting hunters or snowmobiles around, you could post more specific “no hunting” and “no snowmobile access” signs.
posted by pintapicasso at 6:36 PM on December 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

(Just FYI--really not trying to give you a hard time, just useful information--an easement by prescription won't be on any deed, won't be on the property register [unless it's already been litigated]. The whole point is that they arise through customary use and have not been formally negotiated in writing. So unless your real estate lawyer thoroughly and reliably interrogated the seller to establish exactly when and how other people have historically used that road [something the seller, who sounds like he/she is absentee, actually might not even know], he/she wouldn't be able to determine whether an easement is likely to have arisen. I really don't think whoever tore down your sign was thinking "HOW DARE YOU WE HAVE A EASEMENT BY PRESCRIPTION", so in some sense this is slightly off-topic, but since you mention that the road runs right by where you'd like to build your house and it's pretty important to you that others not use it, I merely point this out.)
posted by praemunire at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

No help to give, other than maybe put a camper on the property next spring, with a fire ring, and stay there some when the weather is nice.

But...I DO understand what you are saying about the logging road. My father had some on his property in upstate NY. Some were there when he moved in, put in, maybe in the 1940s. They were old, a few trees growing in, but stayed on his property. Before he moved out, he logged out some of the trees. Some of the roads were updated or moved. They stayed on his property. The roads were for his own use only, not any one else. For him, they were accessed through his yard. For you...well that is harder as you don't have the yard yet. Or the mail box.

As a teen, I did walk around his and other wooded property, but did respect any signs. (And sometimes following the really old roads) Mostly...I didn't see any signs. My siblings and I would walk where we wanted, only keeping an eye out for fields that might have bulls in them.
posted by 101cats at 10:08 PM on December 9, 2017

You should read Rock Steady's link. It looks to me like there are three levels of posting, white signs mean something completely different from yellow signs and yellow signs require registering with your Town Clerk and paying a fee as well as writing your name and phone number. You did it wrong. Study the link - this will make you feel better because you are learning and gathering knowledge. Talk to the Town Clerk - they could be really helpful in explaining the different levels of posting and what might work best for you, as well as in spreading the word about who you are and what you're doing with your land. Tell your contractor what happened and ask their advice - probably a great local resource and they already know you and have a sense of who you are. Every contact you make in a small town will multiply quickly. And remember you have moved to a place with a distinct culture - rural northern New England is like nowhere else. You have a lot to learn - and eventually, once you've taken the time to absorb and understand that distinct culture, you will have a lot to contribute.

Unfortunately, I have to agree with others re the road - if there is a history of public use of the road, you may not be able to forbid its continued use for the same purpose. Talk to a local lawyer or someone who specializes in land use law and whoever does the planning function for the Town - it may be the Town Clerk.
posted by Gnella at 7:15 AM on December 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

an easement by prescription won't be on any deed

Mine very specifically had two legal easements (power line, logging road) that transferred with the property, it was one of the things that technically reduced the value of the land (though not really that much). This may vary state to state? There is definitely a thing in Vermont with "Class 4" roads that have technically been owned by the town but in many cases were not being maintained at all and people just thought they were owned by the landowners. Looks like the OP had checked that out well, but wanted to add this for other people's benefit.
posted by jessamyn at 2:35 PM on December 10, 2017

I horseback ride in a rural (but not remote) area in Pennsylvania, and we regularly ride on other people's property. Conventions where you are could be different. Here there are plenty of places we ride that may have signs like yours posted, but either we specifically have permission to ride there, or the owner allows riders but not hikers or not hunters. I recommend talking to your neighbors for the reasons above, but also because they can help spread the word that your land has sold and has new restrictions. If I'd been riding across a certain area for years and didn't know it had sold, I wouldn't necessarily think anything of new signs up.

We'd report hunters we saw somewhere we knew they weren't permitted, or tell other riders whatever the conditions are. You want to encourage people to spread that kind of info in a positive way. Here lots of people don't allow random hunters, but do let their friends hunt, so you want your neighbors to know that you aren't doing that.

There are some people who are vehemently "no horse may take one step onto my empty grass!" and we respect that but all wonder why they moved here if they want a totally different culture. "We really like our privacy and would like people to ride through here, thanks" would leave me feeling friendly; screaming at me if I step off the road to let a car pass, not so much.
posted by sepviva at 6:00 PM on December 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

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