By Whitney Wallace
A major but sometimes overlooked aspect of owning property is finding, marking and maintaining boundary lines. We all have heard the saying “good fences make good neighbors,” but physical fences may not be feasible when it comes to timber, road access and more. Whether it’s for your protection or for the safety of others, properly marked boundary lines are important. We will discuss some of the different types of lines and how they can affect you.
A marked boundary line. Photo by Michael Blazier, LSU AgCenter.
Trespassing — Someone who crosses your property unknowingly or without your permission is considered trespassing. It is a violation of Louisiana law for anyone to trespass on the property of another without authorization or consent unless otherwise provided by law. Even though the burden of proof is placed on the trespasser, it is always better to mark your lines because you will have a much better case if someone crosses your property.
Timber harvesting — Anytime you are considering harvesting timber on your property, it is imperative to have clear property lines. The last thing any landowner wants is being accused of taking someone else’s timber due to negligence.
Marking lines should begin with a written description recorded at the courthouse in the parish where the property is located. Descriptions can vary in detail depending on the survey and the timeframe in which it was taken. The American Forest Foundation recommends getting a proper description that includes certain aspects, such as line direction, distance of each line section and a description of the corner at each turn. In this article, we will assume the lines and corners have been marked by a licensed surveyor.
Now that you are out on your property, the first step is to locate a known corner or monument. The corner is the intersection of two lines where a change in direction occurs. Corners can be marked with an array of objects. Examples could include metal pipes, rebar, points in a road, living trees or even an old fence. It is worth mentioning that sometimes old or existing fences may be mistakenly thought of as a property line. It is always best to refer to the deed for such language. If unsure, it might be best to have the property surveyed. A written description is vital for a landowner so that you know what to look for as you approach your next turn. Never rely on an unofficial source, such as a realtor or nosey neighbor.
Once all the corners are found, then a boundary line can be marked. These can be easily painted or marked with an axe on trees along the line or on posts that are set along the line to mark the line location. Axe marks are usually two parallel markings facing the property’s boundary line. If you are using paint for line marking, either a good latex-based or oil-based paint can be used.
Once you’ve selected your color (use a single color to mark your boundaries), you’re ready to mark the boundary lines. Always paint the side of the tree facing the boundary line. Common custom is to paint a bar along the tree that is about 3 inches wide at 41/2 feet from the base of the tree.
If a tree is located directly in the path of the line, it is marked with a vertical bar on the side of the tree the line enters. Another marking is made on the opposite side of the tree where the line exits. This is called a fore and aft marking. Portions of the boundary line without trees or only small trees may need to have posts installed in the line to make the location more visible. When marking your line, the distance will fluctuate with the topography and thickness of undergrowth in the area. One guideline is making sure you can see from mark to mark within your vision line. Time and the environment will eventually wear any kind of markings down, so re-painting of marks is key to maintaining integrity of property line marking.
Remember to preserve lines quickly after a survey for the best benefit and least expense. This is just a short overview of property and boundary line management. Discuss any difficult issues that may affect your land with a professional forestry consultant, licensed surveyor or, possibly, a lawyer. Creating and maintaining property lines will be an asset that can generate an increase in value to property owners. So, make a New Year’s resolution to get out, walk more, see nature and check those boundary lines.
— Whitney Wallace is an assistant area agent for the LSU AgCenter based in Tangipahoa Parish.