Nudist resort owners charged with stealing water
LOS GATOS -- In a case that highlights growing tensions brought on by California's drought, the owners and two resident-employees of the Lupin Lodge nudist camp have been charged with felony conspiracy for allegedly stealing water last year from a neighboring property to keep their parched resort open.
The complaint filed by the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office on Thursday alleges that Glyn Stout, 77, his wife Lori Kay Stout, 53, Michael Buckland, 38 and John Berryessa, 49, piped water from Hendry's Creek to the drought-affected, clothing-optional business despite numerous warnings to stop.
The four also face six misdemeanor charges, including trespassing on land managed by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. In photos taken by the district's wildlife cameras, the workers appear fully clothed while engaging in such activities as stringing a hose about half a mile upstream to a waterfall, prosecutor Denise Raabe said.
If convicted, they face up to three years in county jail. The Stouts and Buckland are set to be arraigned in July; it was not immediately clear when Berryessa will have to appear in court.
Friday, co-owner Lori Kay Stout said the resort remains open, noting it is still poised to celebrate in August "80 years of body acceptance and freedom," including "freeing the nipple." She declined to comment further, citing her attorney's advice. However, when rangers ripped out the 3/4-inch hose last fall, the Stouts told this newspaper that their rights to the water are grandfathered in, meaning they had long tapped the upstream creek with the previous owner's permission
But Pete Siemens, president of the open space district's board, said Friday that the alleged theft robbed wildlife of desperately needed water during the drought, as well as the public.
"That water ends up in the Lexington Reservoir and we all use it," Siemens said.
The defendants also drove on roads the district had closed, disturbing the agency's effort to restore the environmentally damaged land once strewn with illegal dwellings and old cars, which it previously managed and now owns.
"The property is of regional ecological significance because of its diverse habitats and its connections to regional water systems," the district said in a written statement.
It was not immediately clear how the resort has been coping with the water shortage since last fall, including whether the owners have had to have more costly water trucked in for fire suppression and general use. In September, Glyn Stout said he would be forced to buy even more. Each truck carries 3,800 gallons, which can cost upward of $400 a truckload. The hose to the open space district's waterfall had produced about four gallons a minute, enough to fill 1½ delivery trucks of water a day.
Siemens said the district tries to settle disputes with neighbors amicably. He could recall only one other occasion, some time in the past 10 years, when criminal charges wound up being filed. A man up in the Skyline Boulevard area refused to stop "recreationally bulldozing" the district's land and was jailed for at least six months, Siemens said.
The criminal complaint against Lupin Lodge contends that the defendants asked Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District last year if they could install temporary lines to collect water from Hendry's Creek for use at their lodge.
District officials declined the request. Despite that, employees of the resort starting July 28 repeatedly trespassed onto the property on foot and in various vehicles, the complaint filed by Raabe alleges.
Evidence shows that an old fire trail was cleared, causing significant environmental damage, and multiple water lines were installed into Hendry's Creek and other springs on the property. All of the water lines ran to or delivered water to the Lupin Lodge water system, officials said.