As beautiful as the American River Parkway is, it is not very friendly to folks who just want to sit in a nice place and commune with the natural surroundings without fear of being mugged.
There are too few places where park benches are situated with a view of the river and it is a shortcoming that can be resolved with a more vigorous management and fund raising organization working under contract with the Joint Powers Authority that is being discussed to govern the Parkway.
This article from the Wall Street Journal profiles a person who designs public spaces just for that reason and she has also written a book, Parks, Plants and People.
An excerpt from the article.
“Lynden B. Miller has white hair and a green thumb. A public-garden designer of renown both in her native New York and elsewhere, she also has the kind of full-blooming forcefulness that could get a century plant to reconsider its position and flower annually. "I feel very passionately about this," said Ms. Miller. "People need places to go in a city and sit on a bench and be connected with nature."
“In the early 1980s at the urging of a city-planner friend, Ms. Miller, then a painter and ardent weekend gardener, took on the daunting task of restoring the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, a long-neglected and vandalized six-acre triptych of Italian, French and English-inspired designs. It took almost five years of raising funds and awareness, of scouring graffiti, hauling trash, pulling weeds, analyzing and amending soil, corralling volunteers, amassing and planting vast quantities of annuals and perennials, bulbs, shrubs, bushes, trees and ornamental grasses, all with the goal of giving visitors an eyeful at every season.
“When work was completed in 1987, New Yorkers had a glorious new showplace and retreat. Ms. Miller had a new career. Since then she has created 18 urban edens in and around the Big Apple, including projects in Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, the New York Botanical Garden, and on the campuses of Columbia, Princeton and Stony Brook universities. "I opened a horticultural Pandora's Box," Ms. Miller said. "I was going to go back to my studio, but painting with plants was more challenging and exciting."