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Easement: Can the public walk on private property where a county easement exists on the private property?

Tacoma, WA |

My kids walk to school. There is a sharp curve in the roadway on their route to school. The property owner whose property is adjacent to the curved roadway put in bushes where the county easement begins on his property. So, from the paved roadway to his bushes there is about 12' of open property where mostly weeds grow. For safety, I have my kids walk in the open 12' area of his property for safety reasons. This includes a portion of his driveway. He said he put the bushes up to keep people out of the grassy portion of his yard. He said the 12 feet between the roadway and his bushes is private and that my kids are trespassing. I called the county who said that the easement is for their use e.g. utilities, road improvement not for public use. Do I have to make my kids walk in the roadway.

Do I have to make my kids walk in the roadway where they might be struck by a car just to avoid having the property owner call the cops? Is he right, is the portion of his property between his bushes and the start of the paved portion of the roadway private property? He said other property owners plant grass and plants up to the roadway. The only reason he didn't is because he parks his travel trailer and cars there sometimes.

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

The most important question is whether the county has an easement or owns the right of way. In most cases, the county requires a dedication of the road right of way before accepting it as a county road. If it is an easement, then one must look at the purpose of the easement. If it is for road and utility purposes, there is certainly a strong argument that pedestrian use along the side of the road in the remainder of the easement is an ancillary use to the "road" purpose of the easement, and the public can walk within the easement area. If it is road right of way, then the county owns it. Again, pedestrian use is an ancillary use of the public "road". If the county owns it, then it would be up to the county, not the adjacent landowner, to impose any limits on pedestrian use. It is common for q substantial open area to exist between the edge of the pavement and the edge of the right of way.
You should consult an attorney to obtain and review the documents creating the easement or right of way and advise you of your (and your children's) rights.


If the easement is for the benefit of the county and is limited to utilities and road improvements, you and your kids do not have the right to use it. You indicate, "I have my kids walk in the open 12' area of his property for safety reasons." The operative word there is, "his." If it is his property, you and your kids do not have a right to go on to it. You could be liable for trespassing if you do. Consider having your kids take an alternate route if you are legitimately concerned about safety. Alternatively, you could lobby the county or city that maintains the road to install sidewalks.

Legal disclaimer: The answer provided: A) is for informational purposes only, B) is not intended to constitute legal advice, C) should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with an attorney, and, D) does not establish an attorney client relationship. The answer may be different if all of the facts were known.


I agree with the previous answers and you could look up the deed and easements with respect to the property to find out who really owns and who has easement rights in the area in question. People will frequently claim more than they have a right to on both sides.
Good Luck

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