Forest Lakes consists of an area of 616 acres in Felton, California with beautiful Redwood Trees and Babbling Brooks. This web site is provided as a service to stockholders for informational purposes.
Forest Lakes Mutual Water Company (FLMWC) was incorporated in 1925 for the purpose of serving water to properties in the Forest Lakes tract. The company is overseen by a voluntary Board of Directors made up of seven FLMWC shareholders serving elected two-year terms. Our bylaws give the Board of Directors the duty to make rules and regulations to perserve healthy and safe water distribution and road systems. We currently have 328 residential connections. A moratorium on additional hook-ups was instituted in 2004.
The bylaws also provide for maintaining a seasonal fire protection reservoir which can be used for recreational purposes by FLMWC stockholders, their guests and tenants. Our lake is a beautiful place for summer family fun. Those of us fortunate enough to live and vacation here know what an exceptional spot Forest Lakes has been and continues to be, with families gathering for Easter egg hunts, Halloween festivals, movie nights, and other recreational events. The times may have changed since 1925, but the spirit of the founders of the community lives on. Become involved in keeping this spirit alive - consider a term on the Board of Directors or join one of the advisory committees on issues involving the water system, roads, recreation and more.
It began in the late 1700’s when the King of Spain granted a portion of the Rancho Rincon del Canada to a Mrs. Harding, who had performed a forgotten service to him and his subjects. Her Spanish Land Grant remained undeveloped through the 19th century, and bequeathed to her son, Mr. Harding, when she died. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, he opened the land to loggers hungry for materials to rebuild San Francisco. They setup a sawmill beside a stream and dammed the stream for a millpond to float the cut logs to the mill. The millpond is our lake, where generations have learned to swim and worship the sun on its beach.The sawmill was just beyond the deep end of the lake and until about 1975 sawdust covered the plateau just below Crane’s Roost, and was several feet deep. A wooden chute came down the slope and hung over Lakeview Drive for sliding sawdust into truck beds for shipment and delivery to customers. In later years after Forest Lakes was opened to residents, this chute just fit the bottoms for any youngster daring enough to slide down and land in the pile of sawdust prepared for him or her on the road below. After a few horrified drivers saw kids flying through the air before them, the chute disappeared. Modern teenagers, eager to experiment with cigarette smoking, were often responsible for frantic calls to the Fire Department when they tried to dowse their cigarettes in the sawdust, only to have them smolder and burst into flames later. Disapproving but desperate mothers were known to resort to stashing sand-filled coffee cans around the sawdust pit for ashtrays. Before telephones were introduced here, fire was cause for more terror than it is now. In your walks around Forest Lakes, look at the redwoods. You won’t find many very old ones, but if you do, look for signs of twisted bark. This made them undesirable for lumber, as the grain would be distorted and unusable for building. Consequently, the loggers left them undisturbed. But also pay attention to the cut and burned stumps around which sturdy redwood groves have grown. In Forest Lakes there are several giant stumps worth finding. Two of these are on Redwood Road. Mr. Harding’s son, Gus, inherited the Land Grant after World War I and in 1924 opened and improved the roads and offered plots for sale in the new track named Forest Lakes.
Why Forest Lakes - in the plural? Because, in the beginning, there really were 2 lakes.At the shallow end of the lake and beyond the parking lot, was a smaller pond of water between Redwood Road and the culvert, which feeds the lake. Early caretakers raised ducks in this pond, which was marshy and had tall reeds growing. No child ventured in because of the mud which oozed through the toes and unknown horrors which lurked beneath.The Recreation Center bears the name of Gus Harding as a memorial to him. He was a real estate dealer and land developer who lived in Forest Lakes with his wife, Kay. They were both very active in the progress and development of the Park until Gus’ death in a light plane crash near Scotts Valley Sky Park Airport. My grandmother, Helene Henry, had a tiny 1-room cabin moved here and perched on the side of the hill on Redwood Road. I first was brought there when I was 6 months old and have spent part of every year since then in Forest Lakes, first as a summer visitor, now as a permanent resident. A kitchen and bath was added to the room and a large porch around 3 sides where we slept. The porch was open to the sky and the redwoods and when we’d awaken to the morning mist on our faces we’d snuggle deeper under our canvas bedspreads. Out the kitchen door was one of those gigantic redwood stumps, which were mentioned in the previous chapter. Over uncounted years it had been burned and the center rotted out and was surrounded by a grove of tall trees, which grew from its still living roots. Its hollow crater was so big that we had a double bed frame in it and it became the choice spot to sleep rolled up in our sleeping bags. I’ll always remember the sight of those trees making a cathedral over me in the chilly morning light. We said farewell to the cabin in 1960 and built a new home here, but the “Old Cabin” still perches on the hill at 357 Redwood Road and has had many fine improvements made to it. It’s now a year round house. As far as anyone knows, it was the first cabin here, and surely the oldest structure, but many others came that same year. In those early years Lakeside Drive ended about 2 blocks beyond the Recreation Center and the Association office. That was as far as any road went into the Park. The Land Grant extended another 3 miles to Empire Grade, but it would be many years before roads were built. The Tract, as it was called then, was conceived as a resort. There was a rowboat on the lake and a canoe sometimes, which we were all welcome to enjoy. I learned to row a boat as soon as I could swim and hold an oar or paddle the canoe. The raft was not anchored and floated wherever we wanted it. A great sport was to have 3 or 4 kids dive off one side at once, sending the raft shooting out and back in the water. That was fun till someone got caught by the orbiting raft and was knocked out, though not seriously injured. Permanent anchorage followed. Families arrived the week after school closed. Fathers enjoyed a week or two of vacation, usually at hard labor and repairing the winter’s damage, then back to work. Mothers and kids remained for the 10 weeks of summer vacation, not to return home till Labor Day in time for school to begin again.
It was a simple time and most of the summer kids had the same routine – clean up the kitchen, sweep leaves from the porches, and gather kindling wood for the wood fires we had every crisp morning and damp night. Once a week leaves were rakes from stairs, pathways and picnic areas; then into swim suits, grab an old discarded towel – beach towels were yet to become fashion – and head for the lake to spend the day in the water with our friends.We knew everybody in Forest Lakes because it was so small and we spent so much time close to home. There were very few automobiles here, because 2 cars for a family was not common, and Daddy had driven the only one we owned back to the city, remember? So wherever we ventured had to be within walking distance. Going to the Boardwalk was a rare adventure, and there were no buses. On rare rainy or damp days we would set out for Henry Cowell Redwoods – then called Big Trees – and try to make a new trail to get there. We would never stay on the roads if there were woods to go through or an ancient path, now grown over, to explore. It was a great thrill to find a log fallen across the San Lorenzo River that we could skitter across or to challenge the famous Swinging Bridge which crossed what is now Smithwoods and Cotillion Gardens across the river to Big Trees. It creaked and groaned and slithered underfoot as we knew we risked our lives to cross the River. Groceries were bought at a little store in Tanglewood across the road from where Capritaurus Music and Video is on Highway 9. When Roy’s Market opened in Felton in 1934 we made the long trek – 1 mile from park entrance to store – about once a week and hauled things home in our red metal wagon. In the 1940’s there was a small store in the house which still sits on Highway 9 at the entrance to Forest Lakes and across the highway was Wright’s of Gold Gulch where you could get breakfast, milk, newspapers, and a great hamburger on white bread. All the mailboxes for Forest Lakes were in a row on Highway 9 just out of the entrance. There were about 10 private boxes and just one for all the summer people, so every day we trooped to the boxes hoping someone remembered where we were and would write to us. The Lake itself has changed very little in all these years. The 1935 photo on the Association office wall was snapped by my mother, Connie Young, and reveals little change. At the side of the road near the diving board was the Tract office where a real estate person waited to sell a parcel or two. After a few years, it was used only for storing canoes and row boats and by older kids who dived from its roof. There was a sandy beach in the shallow end and a wooden sunning platform at the deep end, surrounded by railing. Beneath that platform and over the spillway and creek were bathhouse dressing rooms. They were individual cubicles with a bench, a door and not enough room to turn around in. My total recollection of them was of claustrophobic, sandy, damp, odoriferous cells to be avoided at all costs. I guess somebody used them for changing clothes, but I never did.The platform over the bathhouse was the sole province of “The Big Kids” and God help the pre-high-schooler who lingered there too long. My sister, Elinor, was a “Big Kid” and usually walked to the Lake with me and our younger sister, Barbara. But upon arrival, Barbara and I were dispatched to the shallow end for the day. There was no beach along the edge between the deep and shallow ends and we had to walk up the still existing path and around the trees to get to our beach. The full beach was built in the 1950’s to accommodate the larger summer population and the only ones who complained were “The Big Kids” who felt the “Little Kids” would have easier access to their private area. In the late 1930’s there was a shed-like building on the platform and one summer Bob Early, then a teenager who was raised here, went to school in Felton and still lives here on Gold Gulch Road, opened a snack bar in it. Our favorite candy bar was Pepper Tree and when we could scrape together ten cents we’d buy one and share it among 3 or 4 of us. It was like a Look Bar and I can still remember the peppermint tang of slivers of nougat and nuts we got when we gave it a sharp crack and it splintered inside its wrapper. Once in a while Bob would get a box of ice cream bars, but he’d have to sell them very quickly before they melted, refrigeration being too costly for the snack bar.
Did you ever get to sing “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” under the stars while a great bonfire crackled and lit up your night? Let me tell you about it. Where cars now park at the deep end of the Lake, we’d gather wood and every single night have a big bonfire there after supper dishes were done. There were few, if any, open fire laws then and we never saw a fire permit. That came later. A Forest Lakes caretaker cut big redwood logs into benches we could sit on and they remained in a circle around the fire. The spot was not used yet as a parking area because there were few cars in the Park and it was only a short walk from any cabin and we were all equipped with flashlights to see our way home.We brought songbooks and sang popular songs of the day – “There’s a small hotel with a wishing well” – or “Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun!” – but we learned some oldies too, like “Shine on Harvest Moon” and “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. Anybody who sang those songs night after night still remembers very word, I’ll bet. Ask them. Two huge treats were when someone brought a big tub of popcorn to share or Tootsie Pops for everyone. I told you times were simple. TV for the home was as yet unheard of, radio reception was minimal when even the local station reduced its wattage each evening, and we were very young. The romance of Forest Lakes got better as we grew up, but it was hard to beat the fun we were having then. My best chum, Audrey Donaldson Detmer, spent the summer at the Donaldson cabin, “Highland Fling” on Redwood Road and still does to this day with her mother, her children and grandchildren each summer. They had a marvelous open space with a giant swing strung from the trees, strings of colored lights with Oriental lanterns over them and a fire pit in the ground. When we got to early teenage we’d gather there for games.A favorite was “Sardines” with two teams chosen. One team was given 10 minutes to hide, then the other team had to find them. The fun part was that the whole team had to hide in the same spot and be quiet as mice. Can’t you imagine the suppressed giggles when you found yourself so close to a boy you really, really liked in the dark among the redwoods? I told you romance was coming. Unhappily, many times when the flashlights discovered our hiding place, we could see we’d blundered into a poison oak patch and days of itching followed! Or, after dinner the kids would troop up the steps to our place, “Forever Young”, at 357 Redwood Road for a taffy pull. My mother, Connie Young, loved making taffy and she’d stand at the kitchen door dispensing butter for our hands so the candy wouldn’t stick to them and small handfuls of warm molasses taffy for us to pull and pull and pull till it lost its molasses look and became silken and golden and ready to cut into pieces and eat. We weren’t allowed in the cabin for these greasy and sticky festivities, but milled around out in the picnic area which was lit by the ubiquitous colored lights and Oriental paper lanterns. Inevitably a wail would go up when someone dropped their precious taffy work of art and either tried to pick the dirt out or start all over to pull and pull and pull.
Even in the 1930’s we had pool work parties once a year. When most of us were “summer only”, and there were very few year-round residents in Forest Lakes, the work parties took place as soon as enough summer people arrived. Then, as now, we took whatever tools we had and found a need for them that day. Whacking at weeds on the bottom of the dry lake with a hoe was my specialty. I swam all over the lake and the remembrance of the feather touch of those slimy weeds on my legs as I paddled around helped me to destroy all of them I could see when the lake was dry. We didn’t have as much sand on the lake bottom as we do now so weeds grew wherever they could get roots down. Beyond the shallow end, and where there is now a home at 815 Redwood Road, was a wonderful picnic grounds with tables, benches, rock barbecue pit, and horseshoe pit. There we’d gather when our work was done. All morning when I was on the end of that hoe I could dream of watermelons somebody had stashed in the icy stream for us and the hot dogs which never seemed to run out. Even now I hear the “chink” of the horseshoes I flash back to those days. As the 1930’s grew older, so did we and we were allowed not only to sun on the “Big Kids” platform, but to go to the Dance Pavilion! Be still, my heart! It was exciting! Overlooking the beach at the lake is a house now at 726 Redwood Road, but in the 1930’s it was a dance floor with a roof and bark-covered railing around. Overhead were strings of colored lights, which continued over the lake to the roadway and back. The bright strings lit the area so we could not only dance but have night swim parties while our parents kept the bonfire going so we could dry off. All we had was a wind-up phonograph and records, but with the moon shining on the lake, the colored lights and the sounds of Glenn Miller Band wafting over us we were in heaven – especially if there was someone special to dance with. Along came World War II and blackout restrictions. Our bonfires and bright colored lights were the first to go, but the romantic memories lingered on.
The Park opened roads in the early 50’s as far as Forest Lakes Highlands, about 2 miles up Lakeside Drive, and then later another mile to Empire Grade. There was an excellent road, Altamont Drive, to Empire Grade, and lots were readied for sale along it, when a series of winter storms caused slides and washout along that road. Kay Harding Van Metre still owned and developed the property, and as slide after slide occurred over the years it became impractical to continue to use Altamont and it was closed off. While Altamont was a beautiful drive with easy access for us to West Santa Cruz, it was also a headache for those who lived on Lakeside Drive, as the public soon discovered a shortcut to Felton from Empire Grade. Night and day there was traffic, shattering our precious quiet and the roads soon showed effects of public pounding, so most of us were relieved when the road closed and traffic lessened. The Gus Harding Recreation Center, where the Association office is, had been our tennis court in the 1930’s. It had a good playing surface, a regulation net and was surrounded by a high wire fence. As tennis popularity waned during World War II and repairs became more costly, the net was the first to deteriorate, followed by the surface and the fence. With more and more people buying property here, an all-purpose Recreation Center became desirable. To prepare for improvements a committee, headed by my pal, Audrey Donaldson Detmer, hauled our hoes and shovels to the spot and removed broken concrete, dry rotted wood, and truck loads of weeds and poison oak. A new concrete pad was finished, a rail fence enclosed the area, strings of lights went up, and in one corner was built a small shed for the jukebox that somebody donated. Every Saturday night was “Family Night”. Harry Butz obtained a fire permit for us and each week prepared a fire at one end of the enclosure. Those of us on the committee got prizes donated by merchants in Felton and tables and benches were hauled in for the “Giant Bingo Games”! We played till all the prizes were won, then lit the bonfire and brought out the marshmallows and toasting sticks. There was always a Den Mother or Scout Leader who could start a Community Sing and you can bet everybody joined in.
Later, record collections came out and there was dancing till time for Harry Butz to douse the fire and we all headed for home. Those of us lucky enough to live and vacation here know what a unique spot Forest Lakes is. The times have changed and people move on, but the spirit that was here when I was little still hangs in the air – when I awaken to fog, knowing it will burn off by 10:00 – when the breeze comes up and redwood needles shower down onto the porch – when I see the sand spread across the beach and the gates put in the spillway to fill the lake and thrill to the thoughts of summer – when families organize an Easter egg hunt or a flea market at the Recreation Center – when I sit in a lounge on the patio on a stifling hot night and watch the stars come out, with the Big Dipper pouring out. All this is part of the spirit of Forest Lakes and I’ll never forget it. Legend and Lore by Marilyn Gideon
Legend and Lore by Marilyn Gideon
by Marilyn Gideon
ABOUT FOREST LAKES