Private Use of Public Greenways and PondsTaking a walk on a greenway

The private use of City-owned greenways is regulated by Madison General Ordinance, Section MGO 8.15, Regulation of Private Use of Greenways, Park Lands, and the Bike Path.

While greenways and ponds are not managed to be parks, the private use of public greenways allow “temporary” uses – including walking, playing Frisbee or catch, nature watching etc.

Prohibited Uses & Removal of Encroachments

City-owned greenways are not intended to be an extension of abutting private property owners’ yards.
Prohibited uses include, but are not limited to:

  • Structures (i.e. fences, retaining walls, outbuilding sites, dog runs, play equipment, etc.)
  • Gardens and plantings (i.e. trees, shrubs, bushes, etc.)
  • Storage of personal property (i.e. trailers, piers, boat hoists, building materials, etc.)
  • Mowing of grass when posted for no mowingRotting pumpkin that was dumped in a greenway.
  • Chemical applications (i.e. fertilizers, herbicides and/or pesticides)
  • Dumping waste (i.e. grass clippings, yard waste, compost, trash)

Unapproved uses of the greenways make maintenance more difficult and can pose a safety hazard for our employees.

For example, dumping grass clippings and other yard waste clog outlet structures, preventing sufficient flow through the pipes. This leads to water back-ups, and flooded private property. Not only that, but dump piles create vegetative dead-zones which invite opportunistic invasive species and weeds. Please utilize another approved option for brush, leaves and yard waste disposal.

Structures, especially those that are hidden within vegetation, can pose serious risks to mower operators in the form of flying debris and the resulting malfunction of equipment. Large structures on steep slopes are also difficult to navigate around while operating mowing machinery.


Greenway Outlet Clogged with Debris and Trash
Greenway Outlet Clogged with Debris and Trash
After Clogged Greenway Outlet was Cleaned
After Clogged Greenway Outlet was Cleaned

While performing greenway maintenance activities, staff document and photograph potential encroachments onto the City-owned greenway parcel. Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment is then used to accurately locate the potential encroachment. If the encroachment is determined to be in the greenway, the private property owner will be ordered to remove the encroachment. Non-compliance and/or repeat violations subject violators to monetary forfeitures.

We encourage residents to be observant of maintenance issues or hazards within greenways or publicly owned lands. Please contact the City of Madison Police for any concerns that pose an immediate danger or nuisance. Please contact City Engineering for maintenance, aesthetic, permitting and/or ordinance concerns.

We appreciate the dedication to safety and greenway maintenance provided by the many residents living near public greenways and ponds. If you are unsure whether your property is encroaching on a greenway or pond, you can reference Madison’s Property Lookup Map, or use the map below to see approximate property boundaries. Often utility boxes are located near the property boundary, and small iron posts buried in the ground mark lot corners, if they haven’t been removed or buried. Please note that the accuracy of online, mapped property boundaries varies citywide and it is important to get an official survey for exact property boundaries.

If you are planning to install a fence, please visit the Fence or Hedge webpage with information from Building Inspection.