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Protecting public lands for public use

King County Parks, as steward of 175 miles of regional trails, 200 parks, 215 miles of backcountry trails and 28,000 acres of open space, is responsible for preserving and protecting the County’s park lands. In order to preserve the public character of park lands and assure their availability for public use and enjoyment, it is the policy of the Division to prevent, eliminate, or, in certain circumstances, permit unauthorized private use of Parks’ property. 

What is an encroachment?

Encroachments are the unlawful, unauthorized, or unpermitted use of Parks’ property by another party. Any non-park use on Parks’ property that is not permitted by an executed Special Use Permit is considered an encroachment and subject to removal.

Examples of encroachments include:

  • Buildings or structures, such as garages, sheds, fences, playhouses or tree houses, swing sets or other play equipment;
  • Privately installed landscaping, such as hedges or borders that "claim" public property or limit the public's use or enjoyment of it;
  • Parking spaces, patios, gardens, play or sport areas;
  • Storage areas for belongings, such as boats, RVs, firewood, gardening equipment; and items usually kept out of sight, such as trash cans, compost bins, yard waste piles, junk cars, and other debris or litter.

Why are encroachments such a big deal?

Unauthorized use of Parks’ property prevents the County from building, using or accessing property that the County owns and stewards on behalf of the public. Encroachments are also illegal: State law prohibits the County from gifting public funds or property for private use. When addressing unauthorized uses of Parks’ property, the Division encourages voluntary compliance, but reserves the right to remove the encroachment if voluntary action is not taken. 

Where are the property boundaries?

Boundaries along Parks’ property, especially regional trails and undeveloped open spaces, are often difficult to locate. Most Parks’ property boundaries are not easily discernible on site. Fences, landmarks, plat maps, utility lines, and roadways do not always reflect current ownership. King County’s iMap is a free tool available to look up property boundaries and ownership near public lands. You can search property information by entering an address or parcel number. Even with this tool, a survey may be necessary to determine property boundaries.

How can I help protect park lands?

Maintaining and enhancing the natural beauty of our park lands is a big job. The natural habitat can be enhanced by planting native trees and shrubs and managing the existing vegetation. Parks works with volunteers to eliminate noxious weeds, such as non-native blackberry and ivy, and re-establish native plants on Parks’ property. 

If you would like to volunteer your time and talent to help, please contact Laurie Clinton for information about King County’s Park Ambassador and Adopt-A-Park programs.

Report Maintenance Concerns
If you are concerned about a hazard tree or other maintenance concerns, please report it by calling 206-477-4527; or online at: or by using the SeeClickFix app, available for iOs and Android devices.