The nipples may be free at Lupin Lodge, but the water isn’t.
In a case that highlights California’s increasingly desperate drought, prosecutors have charged the owners of an 80-year-old nudist resort near San Jose with a felony for allegedly conspiring to steal water from a local creek.
Owners Glyn Stout and his wife, Lori Kay, could face up to three years in county jail if convicted. Two of their employees also face similar charges.
“I was surprised,” Glyn Stout, 77, told The Washington Post over the telephone. “The charges relate to things that happened last September, not yesterday, so it did come kind of out of the blue.”
The Stouts were charged on Friday in what is perhaps the strangest of a recent string of water theft cases in California.
It’s no secret that the state is in trouble. Reservoirs are running dry. Lakes look like deserts. Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has ordered Californians to cut back their water consumption by at least 25 percent. Even some of the state’s wealthiest cities are facing serious fines for the first time in recent memory.
Among the most contentious issues is the state’s attempt to curtail decades-old water rights. For generations, farmers and other rural Californians — even nude ones — have enjoyed unlimited access to water flowing through their lands. But now the spigot has been stoppered.
Stout says Lupin Lodge has been caught up in the H2O crackdown. The clothing-optional resort has been around for almost a century. According to Stout’s own history of the lodge, the 110-acre property ensconced in the Santa Cruz Mountains was once a pre-Prohibition winery. It first became a naturalist resort in 1935, making it the oldest in the state. “All alcohol use and public eroticism was banned,” according to Stout.
Eighty years later, the lodge is open to all ages and boasts about 1,000 members, according to its Web site. The pool, sauna and hot tub are nude only. There is nude bocce ball, nude volleyball and nude nature walks. Its Facebook page promotes an 80th anniversary party in August. “Lupin Lodge,” it says. “Freeing the Nipple for 80 Years.”
“People come here for the privilege of being body free,” Stout said. “To them it’s a pleasure and a freedom. And there is a lot of people in the world who can’t understand that.”
Stout doesn’t believe his recent problems with the law stem from anti-nudist sentiment, however.
“It’s all about water here now,” he said. “It really is.”
Stout declined to go into the details of his case, but said that the central issue was whether the lodge has the right to access Hendry’s Creek, which Stout claims runs through his property.
“The stream originates on the adjacent property and flows through our property, through our water system,” he told The Washington Post. “There is no other place the water can go. We are the first human users of the water and have been for the last 80 years.”
Authorities argue otherwise. They accused the Stouts of filching public water.
The Stouts have “conspired to pipe water to their drought-affected business despite numerous warnings to stop,” prosecutors said in a June 12 press release. They slapped the Stouts with the charge of felony conspiracy to commit trespassing for the purpose of injuring a property right.
“Last July, the defendants asked Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District if they could install temporary lines to collect water from Hendry’s Creek on the MROSD managed property for use at their lodge. MROSD officials declined the request,” according to the press release from the District Attorney for the County of Santa Clara.
“Despite this, between July 28, 2014, and November 1, 2014, employees of Lupin Lodge repeatedly trespassed onto the property managed by MROSD on foot and in various vehicles. 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 MROSD property. All of the water lines ran to or delivered water to the Lupin Lodge water system.”
The case is one of many to crop up lately in California. In February, homeowners in Modesto were fined $1,500 for allegedly siphoning water from a canal. In a scene reminiscent of the recent post apocalyptic blockbuster “Mad Max: Fury Road,” water bandits in the town of North San Juan stole hundreds of gallons of “aqua cola” from a fire department tank.
Stout said he had done nothing wrong, but left it at that. He and his fellow defendants were notified of the charges on Friday. “We responded by going down to [the police station to ] be released on our own recognizance,” he said. “So we are free.”
Even if he and his wife shake their serious criminal charges, the lodge is still facing tough times, Stout admitted.
“I lived through the last really bad drought here, which was back from ’76 to ’77,” he said. “This is the second awful once-in-a-hundred-year type droughts that I’ve experienced in less than 100 years.”
Last September, the Stouts were already struggling to save water to keep Lupin Lodge looking good enough to lounge naked in. Like many municipalities, the nearby city of Los Gatos was also aching for agua.
“Lupin Lodge so far has spent more than $4,000 trucking in water since June,” the San Jose Mercury News reported at the time. “Now the resort’s residents and guests are subject to strict water conservation rules. ‘Don’t be a water buffalo,’ says one handwritten sign in front of the lodge. ‘However, since you are a Sexy Beast (yes, you!) here are some useful water conservation tips … ‘”
Since then, water shortages have continued to shrivel business, Stout said. “I think it hurts a lot of things, environmentally and recreationally,” he said. “This is big bad stuff. We’re not used to this kind of thing where we in California have to advertise to the rest of the world that if you come, bring water.”
But no matter how dry it gets, Stout said he would ensure that visitors will always be able to enjoy Lupin Lodge.
“We’ve always been able to weather this sort of thing,” he said. “If the water gets bad, we just ask people to bring their own water for their weekend excursions here.”
Stout and his wife are scheduled to be arraigned on July 13. One of the employees will appear in court the next day.
For someone accused of stealing water, Stout sounded super Zen about his state’s water crisis. Then again, he is a nudist who believes the country is generally “repressed.”
“Let’s all kind of get off the anger and that sort of thing about it and let’s learn to live with what we got,” he said of the water shortage. “That’s what we’re having to do. We’ve cut way back but so far we have enough water.”
As for the felony charges he’s facing, Stout said he’d be happy to talk more about it, but only in person.
And in a hot tub.
“Maybe you need a trip out to California,” he said. “Talk to [your editor] and tell him you can have an exclusive. You can come down here and we’ll both sit in the hot tub and talk about it. Once we’ve built a little bit of trust then we can have a real interesting conversation.
“But until then, my attorney says just to keep my mouth shut,” he said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”