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Glenn Hammett

Riverlakes neighborhood.

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Mark Nessia

Hilario Puentes, right, and Mario Carrillo have a friendly bet on The Links at Riverlakes Ranch greens. The first one to get a hole-in-one gets $20.

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Mark Nessia

Kenn McCloud and his son, Caden, enjoy a few laps around the Riverlakes Ranch lake in their paddle boat at Southshore.

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Mark Nessia

Lynn Branch tries to keep Jackdog (left) under control as a duck crosses the path along Southshore in Riverlakes Ranch. Branch likes to take her dogs walking "every day the weather's good."

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Gregory D. Cook

On Saturday and Wednesday evenings during the holiday season, Riverlakes Ranch residents take to the lake in brightly decorated boats for a boat parade, turning the surface of the lake into a simmering reflection of color.

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Mark Nessia

Dottie Setser, owner of Nana's Cupboard, helps Linda Curry as she hosts a Christmas shopping during the Holiday Bazaar Dec. 8 at Riverlakes Beach Club. It was the first the bazaar was held at Riverlakes and featured seven local vendors.

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Mark Nessia

Residents of the Riverlakes Ranch community check out the items for sale during the Holiday Bazaar at the Riverlakes Beach Club. It was the first time the bazaar was held in the Riverlakes area.

Finishing a busy day at work, Don Billiard knows there is one place he count on to relax -- a place he can go every day to fish, kayak, take a boat ride or simply stroll around a lake with a beautiful view.

If it's hot enough, Billiard can take a swim in one of three different pools. On chilly days, he can relax in a jacuzzi or even go to the spa to pamper himself.

The best part of it all, Billiard calls this place "home."

He lives in Riverlakes Ranch, a private community near The Links at Riverlakes Ranch golf course in northwest Bakersfield. It's known for the great amenities and family atmosphere it offers homeowners.

"For me, I live on the lake so coming home feels like I am going on vacation every night," said Billiard, president of the Riverlakes Ranch Master Association. "It's like living on a resort."

Amenities, schools

Riverlakes Ranch offers homeowners a private beach club that features three different pools -- including one with a beach entry -- spas, two jacuzzis, five pocket parks, five picnic and barbecue areas, and a clubhouse that homeowners can reserve for family events or birthday parties.

Some of the best amenities it offers are fishing, boat rides, and the beautiful 17-acre lake homeowners can simply walk to from their backyards. The lake is also home to various birds, turtles and other wildlife. Another homeowner favorite is the walking trail, which goes around the lake.

For those with kids, two of the top performing school districts in all of Kern County serve Riverlakes Ranch -- Fruitvale and Norris school districts.

Riverlakes Ranch is known for maintaining a tight community where everyone knows their neighbors.

"In general, this is a really family-oriented community with many things for kids to do," Billiard said. "With our lake, we know our neighbors who live in front and back of us."

Drawn to Riverlakes

Riverlakes Ranch was born in mid-1990s and has been growing ever since. The average home starts at 1,100 square feet to as big as 3,800 square feet. Prices of homes range from about $145,000 to about $500,000, depending on size.

"Buyers are drawn to this area due to the golf course and gated prestigious neighborhoods," said Stephanie M. Franks, realtor with Coldwell Banker Preferred, Realtors. "This area of town is also close to shopping, great parks and award-winning schools."

She added: "From an investment standpoint, it is always a solid residential investment to purchase on or near a golf course. These neighborhoods always hold their value best."

In fact, it's such a popular neighborhood that homes for sale normally do not last long on the market.

"For sale (homes) are very, very few," Franks said. "And if a new listing hits the market, there are usually multiple offers within a few days if it is priced well."

Coming together

Riverlakes neighbors regularly get together during events for homeowners. A few years ago, the area was host to a sailboat race where several homeowners joined. During the winter, homeowners take part in a boat parade, where they decorate their boats with Christmas lights and put on a show on the lake for the community to watch from their backyards. In the past, up to 22 boats have been a part of the private boat parade.

The Riverlakes Ranch Master Association's board of directors holds monthly meetings, allowing homeowners to give input about the community and work to maintain it.

"It is a great private community, and like any private community, we do not like it to be abused," Billiard said. "It is well maintained, and we want to keep it like that. Homeowners like to keep everything clean, including their homes. They are people who like to take care of what is theirs."

In all, Riverlakes represents the unity of neighbors and families who work together to make the best out of their home, Billiard said.

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