Saturday, April 28, 2007

Parkway Editorial

There was a wonderful editorial in the Sacramento Union April 20,2007 and here it is in its entirety with permission of the Union.

Save the American River Parkway

Sacramento Union Special Editorial

The 23-mile American River Parkway is Sacramento’s recreational crown jewel. That is why it has been so painful for us to watch it deteriorate. Sacramento has been a poor steward of this magnificent natural asset along the Lower American River. This is not a new revelation. A study conducted by the Dangermond Group seven years ago and updated in 2006 shows that the county has been shortchanging administration and upkeep of the parkway. In 2003, the county even considering closing parts of it. Now, parkway users are regularly confronted with the ugliest evidence of the parkway’s sad eclipse—hobo encampments and crumbling roads. Enough is enough. County leaders must establish a joint powers authority (JPA) to allow private donors, corporations, foundations, and adjacent property owners to rescue the parkway.

The JPA solution is no pipedream. Before 1980, New York City’s Central Park had steadily deteriorated. But then the Central park Conservancy, a private, not-for-profit organization contracted with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to revive the park. It has solicited donations of more than $350 million from individuals, corporations, and foundations and now provides more than 84 percent of Central park’s yearly $25 million budget. The conservancy funds crews to aerate and seed lawns; rake leaves; ensure the health of trees; maintain recreational areas, expunge graffiti; conserve buildings; nurture woodlands and riparian area; maintain drainage systems; and protect against pollution. It collects an annual fee from the City of New York and finances park operations, capital improvements, an endowment, and programs for visitors and volunteers. It has been a glowing success.

Sacramento County should look to Central Park as the model for what it could accomplish with a JPA at the parkway. Such a JPA could contract with a nonprofit “American River Conservancy” to raise funds to purchase equipment; perform maintenance; make capital improvements; resurface roads; expand park land; hire more interpretative guides; and expel transients by ratcheting up enforcement and increasing the number of park rangers. The Dangermond study found that accomplishing the things could cost up to $8.5 million more than the county’s baseline support over the next ten years. The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors should immediately enact an American River Parkway JPA to raise the funds necessary to restore the luster of the area’s foremost recreational asset.