I have spent thousands of hours in the parkway myself fishing, hiking and picnicking with friends and family since I was 10 years old. I caught my first striped bass, steelhead, shad and king salmon while fishing the American River. I have had many memorable trips fishing from a bank and boat for these species, along with bluegill, largemouth bass and catfish.
However, this wonderful parkway and the great fishing and other recreational opportunities may be shut down if the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors proceeds with their proposed budget cuts. According to the Sacramento Bee front page story on January 12, "the county likely will consider closing the American River Parkway and other regional parks February 10 on its way to cutting another $10 million and 92 jobs."
With nearly 400 other river users and community activists, I attended an Open Town Hall Meeting at the Effie Yeah Nature Center, located inside Ancil Hoffman Park in the heart of the parkway, on Saturday, January 10. The Save the American River Association, Inc., American River Natural History Association and American River Parkway Foundation sponsored the meeting - and did an incredible job of getting a diverse array of river users to the meeting.
Jim Jones, SARA board member and longtime river activist, kicked off the meeting by summarizing what people can do in the short term to stop the closure of the Parkway- contact your County Supervisor and ask them to find the funds to keep the parkway open. However, he emphasized that it is "the government’s responsibility to represent the people" who use the parkway and that long-term funding for this unique urban park must be found.
Ronald Suter, director of the Department of Regional Parks, Recreation and Open Space, explained the "nuts and bolts" of funding the parkway. The budget for maintaining the parkway has been $4,000,000, even though $6,000,000 is the level that it should be. He said that if the worst case scenario cuts go through, the budget would be cut to only $1.3 million - effectively shutting down the parkway.
"I need $1.3 million just to open the door of the parkway - to pay rent and workers compensation," he said "This severe cut would result in a cut of 80 percent of the maintenance staff and 70 percent of the ranger force. We also would not be able to maintain the bike trail and firebreaks."
Under this scenario, the County would have to decide whether to leave the parkway open for 24 hours - or to close it for 24 hours, according to Suter.
One irony about cutting the funding for the is that shutting it down would result in a further loss of revenue to the county, since keeping the parkway open generates $900,000 in parking, boat launch and other access fees annually. "The more we cut out of the budget, the more it will cut our parkway revenue," he noted.
Others who spoke at the meeting include Frank Cirill, SARA president emeritus, and Alan Wade, current president of the SARA Board. Cirill pointed out that this was not the first time that the American River and the Parkway have undergone a major crisis. "We’ve had crises before, such as the fight against the diversion of American River water by EBMUD," he said.
A variety of suggestions for both short term and long term funding came from the audience, including a suggestion of selling a calendar of "fit, attractive" parkway users to generate money.
I urge everybody who cares about the future of the American River and its wonderful parkway to participate in the campaign to save the parkway. What can you do?
1. Email or call your county supervisor and tell him/her that you will not tolerate the closing of the Parkway. The phone numbers and email addresses for the Board are:
District 1: Roger Dickinson: (916) 874-5485 firstname.lastname@example.org
District 2: Illa Collin: 874-5481 email@example.com
District 3: Muriel Johnson 874-5471 firstname.lastname@example.org
District 4: Roger Niello 874-5491 email@example.com
District 5: Don Nottoli: 874-5465 firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Attend the Board of Supervisors meeting at the Board Chambers, 700 H Street, Sacramento on March 9 (rescheduled from February 10). The time to discuss the parkway funding is unknown; check the Board’s website, www.co.sacramento.ca.us, before attending. Their agenda is always posted on the website on the Friday before their meeting.
3. Write letters to the editor of every local newspaper, including neighborhood ones.
4. Contact Mayor Heather Fargo, phone (916) 808-5300, email: email@example.com, regarding support for keeping the parkway open.
5. Contact SARA for information about how to contribute as a volunteer.
6. Join SARA—the only local organization that has for 42 years fought politically for the establishment and survival of the Lower American River and the Parkway.
Daniel Bacher is an outdoor writer/alternative journalist/satirical songwriter from Sacramento California. He is also a long-time peace, social justice and environmental activist. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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