Civil disobedience and baskets
An activist group plans to throw open the gates for one day this summer and invite the public to a picnic in the Yuba Goldfields, a little-known 10,000-acre landscape of rock and water 20 minutes from Grass Valley.
And the group is pretty sure the picnickers won’t get arrested.
The Yuba Goldfields Access Coalition plans to hold a “public lands picnic” June 8.
The group has been battling for years to get gravel company Western Aggregates, Inc. to unlock gates that block Hammonton Road – a nine-mile stretch. One gate is under the state Highway 20 bridge on the south side of the Yuba River.
Western Aggregates says the road is private property. The access coalition says the gravel company merely wants to block competing gravel companies from mining thousands of acres of federal Bureau of Land Management property.
The Goldfields consists of countless tons of hydraulic mining debris that washed down from the foothills, and are said to contain one-third of California’s available aggregate for construction.
Hammonton Road is a county road, according to a 1999 ruling by Yuba County Superior Court Judge David Wasilenko.
Yuba County officials considered opening the road for a while following the judge’s decision, but then decided against that while the case is on appeal.
A Western Aggregates’ company official declined to comment this week. In the past, the gravel company’s security guards have made citizens’ arrests of people they catch behind the gates.
But Chuck Smith, chairman of the coalition, said he doesn’t anticipate a problem with public access.
Bill Calvert, a coalition member who lives within the Goldfields, has an easement that allows him to invite in guests, Smith said.
“It’s very interesting,” Smith said of the Goldfields’ expansive landscape. The first time people see it, “It’s a jaw-dropping experience to them.”
The event is also a fund-raiser for Calvert, who faces criminal charges for cutting a chain on the gate to Hammonton Road. The coalition is seeking a $25 per-person donation. To register for the picnic, call Calvert at 743-5639.
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