The definition of private property as compared to public property can be more fluid than people realize. One term of law that people in New Jersey might have only a faint understanding of is easements. An easement is a piece of property that is used by others who do not own it, usually to travel from one place to another.
One New Jersey township recently vacated an easement that had been proposed as a pathway for children to take to and from school. The easement had originally been granted back in 1957 but was seldom used. The property had been identified as a possible site to build a footpath for children to use because there were few other viable options available.
However, residents of the subdivision where the easement was expressed their displeasure at the plan. They said it would increase noise and activity near to their homes. The homeowners' association also would have had to have contended with a large number of trees being cleared in order to build the walkway.
The return of the easement to the association raises new issues, however. If someone were to be injured on the property, it's conceivable that the person could win a successful premises liability case if the property is deemed to be in an unsafe condition. Property owners, whether individuals or associations, are responsible for keeping their properties safe. People who have been injured in slip-and-fall accident or a tripping accident on someone else's property might want to consult with an attorney about their case.
Source: Chatham Courier, "In split vote, Chatham Township Committee approves vacation of controversial easement," P.C. Robinson, April 24, 2014