No one claims Hammonton Road, but many use it
A Yuba County road with a long, litigious history is having a rougher wet season than most, and residents believe it's the county's job to do something about it.
After recent storms washed out a 20-foot section of Hammonton Road southwest of Smartsville, those residents said they're cut off in one direction completely, creating a potential safety hazard for themselves and others.
"It's not just us," said Lisa Church, who's lived on Hammonton for eight years. Because the road is frequently used by people who enjoy fishing, off-road vehicles and other activities along the Yuba River, an accident could mean significant delays before an emergency response vehicle could get in or out.
READ: Courts fail to compel work on road: http://ubin.cc/YDdzrf
But though the 8 mile long Hammonton Road is a public thoroughfare, who is responsible for it has been an unanswered question for a decade.
In 2002, a state appeals court affirmed a ruling declaring it a public road, after suits between gravel company Western Aggregates and the county, which became a party to the suit when protesters asserted they were on public property when they were arrested for trespassing.
Yuba County, however, never added Hammonton to its road system, and a sign near the start of the road notes it's not maintained by the county.
When Church and other residents recently beseeched supervisors to address the issue, the board said the county didn't have the money to do so.
County spokesman Russ Brown said so far, county officials haven't found money for fixes through grants, either.
"We have an extensive network of road for a county our size," Brown said. "That makes it difficult to free up funds for something new."
But fixing the washed-out portion isn't the same as fixing the whole road, said Church, one of eight families who lives on Hammonton.
And because so many people use the road, the county's obligation is more than to just her and her neighbors, she said.
Another property owner on Hammonton said he is hoping a solution can be found before the matter ends up in court. Again.
"I hope the county has enough smarts to make it a county road," said Bill Calvert, who used to live on the road but now rents out property there. "Something has to be done."
CONTACT Ben van der Meer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 749-4786. Find him on Facebook at /ADbvandermeer or on Twitter at @ADbvandermeer.