Courts fail to compel work on Hammonton Road
1851: An early map of the region shows a road running along the Yuba River between Marysville and Nevada County. A US Department of the Interior map four years later designates it Marysville & Nevada Road.
1861: An official Yuba County map also shows the road, which is considered a public right of way.
Between 1902 and 1905: The town of Hammonton is established on the south side of the Yuba River, and the Marysville & Nevada Road goes through it and is eventually renamed for it.
1949: County maps continue to define Hammonton as a county road.
1970s: A predecessor company to Western Aggregates gates Hammonton Road. Evidence indicates the road had been used as a public road in preceding years, though less once Hammonton ceased to exist in 1957.
2000: In Yuba County Superior Court, a judge rules the road was a public road and should be accessible. The ruling is upheld by a state appeals court in 2002.
October 2012: Residents ask county supervisors to fix a portion of the road at risk of washing out, but supervisors say the road is not county maintained and there is no money available.
Earlier this month: Near Parks Bar Bridge, the road washes out.
What no one disputes — anymore — is Hammonton Road's status as far as who can use it: Court rulings, the most recent one from 2002, have declared it a public road.
Who is responsible for it, though, is a lot less clear.
READ: No one claims road, but many use it: http://ubin.cc/YDdt2K
Scott Jenny, an attorney in Martinez investigating the matter for one of the road's property owners, said the answer lies in the interpretation of the 2002 ruling by the state's 3rd District Court of Appeal.
"As I read the ruling, the ruling was that it was a public road. That's step one," said Jenny, who wasn't part of the earlier suits. "For step two, the county would have to have accepted the road as part of its road system."
But that step never happened, meaning if the property owners aren't paying for road upkeep and maintenance, no one is, Jenny said.
The original suit, filed in the 1990s by Western Aggregates, held Hammonton as a private road only mining companies could use. Protesters in a labor movement who had been arrested for trespassing on the road contended otherwise, and courts ultimately agreed, in two separate rulings.
However, stories from the time show Yuba County supervisors treading cautiously on the road's status, never declaring it was a county maintained road.
If no one steps up to take responsibility, Jenny said, the residents may have to force the issue in court.
"They're in kind of a predicament," he said. "You may need litigation to impose responsibility on a government."