Parkways, Easements etc

Where I live, homeowners are required to maintain the parkway (the strip between the sidewalk and the curb). Some homeowners just keep the area clean with sand, pebbles etc., others grow fruit & veg., others flowers and shrubs.

Given that the parkways are city property, by default are the vegetation, fruits etc. also ‘public’ ie help yourself?

If it is an easement, you own the land but have to give others access across the land. If the city owns the land, do you have to get permission about what you can do on city property even though you are required to keep it up? We have to keep the sidewalks open to the public (including shoveling and repairing) but the land is owned by the homeowner and an easement is granted to the public.

If the city requires you to get permission, I’d say you own the fruit or veggies you plant and harvest (not public). We have community gardens on public land but people pay to rent that land and keep what they grow.

If the city owns it, there may be an explanation on the plat that obligates you to keep the property open and available.

In VA, the typical right of way line falls at the end of the sidewalk. I say typical because you have to check the plat. I’ve seen so many weird issues including the FAA claiming they own one of our roads because someone appeared to make an error on one map over 75 years ago.

It is in the city code (or state/town) where you will find the rules for who maintains keeping the sidewalk clear, grass cut, etc. not in the deed/plat. Technically, in our city, if you wanted to do something within the right of way (plant gardens) you would have to get a right of way use agreement. This almost never happens. The city isn’t going to come get you in violation.

However, that does mean what is in the right of way is public. It’s like when you put you trash can out behind the curb for pick up, it’s considered public and the police can go through it without a warrant. If you had a right of way use agreement, I assume the terms of who owned what would be spelled out in the agreement.

If the property owner owns the sidewalk/grass strip and there is an easement for public use, the details of what that entails would be in the easement. It may or may not be in the deed. It should be at least referenced in the deed and/or plat map, but sometimes those things are obtained and recorded separately in the courthouse.

And all that being said, I couldn’t imagine picking someone’s fruit or veggies out of a garden in front of someone’s house - public right of way or not. That just seems wrong to me even if it was technically legal.

@twoinanddone It seems I may have confused parkway & easement; my understanding is that in our city, the strip between the sidewalk and the street is city owned and homeowner maintained, therefore, not an easement but a parkway. Homeowners receive strict citations for not properly maintaining said parkway.

No permits are required to grow ‘permitted’ shrubs / fruits / veggies etc., as long as they meet city guidelines.

I do not grow my fruit and veggies on the side of the street, however, a friend of mine has a beautiful butterfly garden on those strips, and she told me she found somebody helping themselves to her flowers. When she spoke to that person, and while the person ‘apologized’, the person also said it was public property, therefore was not doing anything wrong ie the flowers were anybody’s for the taking.

When I heard this, it made me feel a little sad; I could not imagine feeling that sense of entitlement, when obviously most people (in my mind), would not think that way; for most people, I assume that it would be considered ‘private property’

We have a sidewalk in front of our house the goes to the street (no grass between sidewalk and street). We have to keep it shoveled and repaired. We cannot put a curb cut in (say to put in a driveway). I believe we own the property to the middle of the street, but can’t change the sidewalk or street.

No one else can do anything to that sidewalk even though there is an easement, like draw on it with chalk or paint, set up a lemonade stand, or put their trash cans there for pick up.

Anyone can park in front of your house for 72 hours. Lots of grumbling about that on Nextdoor when a bus that people were living in was parked in front of an apartment building this spring. Many SJW saying the owners of the bus ‘have a right’ to park it there, but most homeowners would not be happy if a bus of 5+ people living in it just parked in front of the homeowner’s house.

I lived in a townhouse complex and our patios and driveways were ‘limited common use’ meaning they were owned by the community but the bylaws had dedicated their use to the owner of the attached unit. You couldn’t just park in someone’s driveway even though it was owned by the community.

A city park is public property but you can’t just go pick the flowers or veggies from the park so I don’t see how the person could justify picking the flowers from your neighbor’s ‘public property.’


Still remember my mother explaining to me if everyone took home a flower from a public garden, all would be gone, and no one could enjoy them. This made absolute sense to me at four years old.

Maybe a sign: These flowers are for all to enjoy. Thank you for not picking the flowers.

If she catches someone again, maybe inquire when they want to come help with weeding and deadheading?

Definitely agree. Just because it’s public property doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want. Schools are public property. Do you think you can waltz in and do whatever?

I suppose If you wanted to be technical about it, you could say the person picking flowers was in violation of destroying public property.

I would never pick a flower that was clearly planted and maintained by someone else. Pretty nervy!

On the other hand, since being home in quarantine I have seen so many dog walkers that eating fruit or veggies from near the curb is out of the question. Too many
“ markers”.

I used to have a plot at a community garden. The land was owned by the town. Each plot was loaned for a season to one particular person.

Sometimes people who did not have a plot would arrive and just wander around taking vegetables from other people’s plots. I checked into it and found out that this is a felony. It is theft.

Multiple people gave up and stopped tending their vegetable plot because too many of the vegetables that they had grown were being stolen by other people. Eventually I did the same thing.

What you are proposing is straight out theft. It is also punishing people who care to put in the work and effort to do something productive. Punishing responsible behavior is far too common in the US right now. Do not add to this.

I agree, nervy to pick from a garden that is in front of a person’s home.

A solution might be to offer a little table with a vase of “free take one” flowers or a basket with extra veggies - sort of a “take one but please leave the others to grow or for our personal use”.

Our neighborhood did this one summer - I loved the idea but others didn’t want to keep it up. For mine I took a short plant hook, placed it near the sideway between two big pine trees, hung a basket on the hook and put my extra veggies in it for the taking.

Which is correct if there are no other restrictions besides the 72 hour limit, and the vehicle was actually moved at least once every 72 hours.

That is why such unhappy homeowners lobby for things like bans on living in vehicles, residential permit parking, or other measures that could be used against what they do not like.