This is what I remember, and have learned since my arrival on the Ranch, about the reservoir and the creation of the Hammond Landowners’ Association.
The Dwight Hammond Agricultural Reservoir was created more than 100 years ago under unusual circumstances having to do with pioneer families and politics. It is one of only two bodies of water in the state of California which take water from one watershed (in this instance the Sacramento) and release it into a different watershed (the Klamath).
This area was subdivided in the 1960s by Dorrington Enterprises. There were actually two Hammond Ranch subdivisions at that time … Hammond Ranch East, which is what we know as simply Hammond Ranch, and Hammond Ranch West which was sold separately and became Lakewood Ranch Estates.
Parcels in Hammond Ranch East were sold using the reservoir as a lure in spite of the fact that reservoir is not now nor has it ever been part of our Hammond Ranch subdivision. This inference of access rights is a practice continued by realtors to this day.
Dorrington Enterprises also created the Hammond Lake Association, but did not make it mandatory as part of ownership deeds for Hammond Ranch East.
When my husband and I bought our property, nearly 50 years ago, we too were under the impression that owning property on Hammond Ranch included use of the reservoir area for recreation. During those first years there were comparatively few resident landowners and some of us used the reservoir to swim, kayak, even ice skate.
Then, in the late 70s or early 80s, Dorrington Enterprises offered ownership of the “Lake” to the Lake Association. It seemed like a good deal. But with diligent investigation it was found to be unclear exactly who did own the land in question and that, based on the conditions in place for the creation of the agricultural reservoir, ownership of the land did not automatically include use of the water. Those conditions meant that whoever owns the land under the water has no right to use or allow use of the water for any purpose. Hence, the Hammond Lake Association declined to accept the offer. The liability was too high a risk. As a result of that decision, the name of the association for
Hammond Ranch East, now called just “Hammond Ranch”, was changed to the Hammond Landowners’ Association in order to retain the logo initials.
At that time, many of us who had been enjoying the area stopped going there.
On contemplation, it was realized each landowner has property with areas which can be considered desirable for recreation such as picnics and camping, with attractive views of the Mountain, with old cattle trails which can be seen as hiking paths, with summer deer populations which can be seen as providing good hunting, and other potential enticements. Since landowners didn’t want their land used at the whim of others, most recognized that trespass was and is trespass regardless of who owns the property or who wants to use it.
Population in the area grew, realtors continued to infer mutual possession even when told the facts and asked to desist, and a residual group of landowners continued to see their use of that property and the water as their right. As a result, problems began to manifest.
At some point, a land group headed by a local architect took over ownership of the land under the water which is actually parcel 15 of the Lakewood Ranch Estates subdivision. The reservoir began to be noted as “Hammond Pond” and it was proposed that the area be turned into a public park. That idea was discarded when the planners learned the true situation with water ownership as well as recognized both the lack of public access and of enough available land area for parking and non-water related recreational activities.
Over the years, efforts have been made to settle this situation which usually ended in the decision to not roil the neighbors.
As a result, problems continued to grow.
That is where we are now.
The legal name of the water, as noted on County maps, is the Dwight Hammond Agricultural Reservoir and ownership of the water is held by properties downstream which have irrigation water rights.
The property around and under the reservoir is currently owned by the Siskiyou Land Trust.
The property owned by the Siskiyou Land Trust is currently accessed via Dale Creek Road, a privately owned and maintained road which is well posted as such. There are no public rights to the use of the land, the water, or Hammond Ranch roads.
That area is not now, nor has it ever been, a “community” anything … park, asset, whatever. In spite of what developers and realtors “infer”, it has always been privately owned property part of the Lakewood Ranch Estates subdivision, subject to private property controls and easement rights.
Written September 2020