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Friday, July 31, 2009

Kinnelon Public Paths and Private Property

Public Footpath originally uploaded by Extra Medium.
Public FootpathThis photo titled Public Footpath explains that in the UK "...everywhere you go, there are these public footpaths. And for whatever reason, there's always people walking along them. I never see a beginning or end to them. But what's random is that they go on private property..." It had me thinking about areas around Kinnelon where public access comes up against private property.

Take Silas Condict Park with its magnificent and elegant historic Casino building. Definitely a public space. And, yet, not completely since a caretaker lives on the premises.

The first time I realized that a person - rather a family - had a private property in a public space, I remember thinking how marvelous to be in such a bucolic setting, yet also how awkward to be constantly on guard for the unexpected: someone peering into a bedroom or taking a child's toy or ringing the doorbell for more information.

You might say that it comes with the territory. But, still. The co-existence of private within public creates tension.

That certainly holds true in communities like Fayson Lakes or Smoke Rise or along the Kakeout Reservoir trail where common spaces abut private properties, which sometimes aren't clearly defined as private.

I share here stories -- such as Cornie Hubner's -- that bring up visions of spaces that once were private and now aren't, or of ones that were common and now aren't. They may also take us places where we physically shouldn't go unless invited.

We have to be respectful. We can't assume that because something historic looks uninhabited or public, that it is, that we can just wander into buildings and help ourselves to what's around. The only way that the concept of a 'public footpath' through private property [or of common and private] can work is by not venturing from the public path.

In Smoke Rise, one example is the Talbot House on Talbot Drive. It is private property, yet, we are given to understand, visited by uninvited people, some of whom will even go up to the house to satisfy their curiosity.

It's really the same as if people came up to our home and peered through our windows.

We wouldn't like it.

So, although we will continue to write about the many places of historic interest among which we live, we will certainly remember that it does not mean they are all open to the public and, in fact, some are not.

Know before you go!

Christine & Ted


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