What is a "County Road"?
The term “County Road” is often misused today to describe a number of different road situations. It is used to describe a public right-of-way, whether it is a County Road or not. It is also used by City and State personnel to describe any street or road over which the City or State do not have jurisdiction. Local property owners often believe any road that cannot be closed to the public is, or should be, a County Road. This is an effort to clarify what is and is not a County Road.
Public road law in Oregon was first created by the Territorial Act of 1848 and has gone through many changes over the years. The most significant change occurred in the late 1930's, when the Work Project Administrator, under the supervision of the County Engineer, prepared an Official Map of the Roads of Marion County showing and numbering all Market Roads and County Roads in Marion County. On March 22, 1939, Circuit Court Judge J. C. Siegmund and the County Commissioners decreed, “Any road not designated on said map as a County or Market Road shall not be considered a County Road until accepted or re-established by order of this Court and the County Engineer hereby is directed to perform or have performed no work on any road which is not designated on said map as a County Road.” This decree established the road system designations being used today. County Roads can come about by dedication, grant, eminent domain, statutory proceedings, etc. Oregon Revised Statutes detail the requirements for establishing a County Road under current law.
The Marion County Public Works Department (MCPW) uses the following definitions:
Right-of-Way - refers to a strip of land given to the public for specific uses including roadways, bridge structures, public utilities, etc. Right-of-ways are available for use by the public at large and are administered by the jurisdiction (City, State or County) in which they lie. The most common County right-of-way is an easement for roadway purposes granted to the County by a private landowner.
County Road - is a public right-of-way that has been formally accepted by the County Commissioners as a County Road. MCPW maintains all County Roads, but generally is prohibited from spending road funds on any road that is not an officially designated County Road.
Easement - see Private Road
Local Access Road - also referred to as a Non-County Road by MCPW, is any roadway constructed in a public right-of-way that has not been accepted by the Marion County Commissioners as a County Road. This includes privately constructed roads, abandoned roads, etc. Maintenance of these roads is the responsibility of the local property owners.
Non-County Road (NCR) - see Local Access Road
Private Road - any road constructed on private property or in a private easement. Maintenance of these roads is the responsibility of the owner of the property where it is located.
For More Information
You can request information about specific roads at the MCPW offices located at 5155 Silverton Road NE, Salem, Oregon, by email at
MCDPW@co.marion.or.us, or by calling 503-588-5036.
Two important questions to ask are: A. “What is the legal status of the property where the road is located?” (The most common are: 1. Privately owned with an easement to the public; 2. Dedicated to the public, as in a subdivision; and 3. Privately owned with a private easement.); and, B. Who has responsibility to maintain the physical structure of the road?” (A government agency, in the case of a County Road, City Street, or State Highway; the owner in the case of a Private Road; the users in the case of a Local Access or Non-County Road; or no one in the case of unopened Right-of-Way.)