Another View: A nonprofit should run the parkway
Special to The Bee
Published Sunday, Nov. 08, 2009
Two recent articles in The Bee tell us that funds for the American River Parkway will be reduced again, continuing the funding shortage the parkway has been dealing with for several years.
One is the The Bee's editorial: "Buy a yearly pass to help river parkway" from Oct. 28, and the other is the Public Eye column: "Bumpy trails ahead on American River Parkway" from Oct. 30.
The editorial's call to buy a pass isn't realistic considering most people feel they have already paid taxes to use the parkway, nor is the other article's reliance on public funding, given the recent drop in available money.
We support the proposed strategy under discussion by local leadership – also mentioned in the editorial – to form a "joint powers authority" of local governments to provide base funding, though we do not support the idea of creating a benefit assessment district to raise taxes on parkway-adjacent property, which is coupled with the plan.
Instead, we would prefer that the joint powers authority create a nonprofit organization for daily management, and develop and sustain substantial philanthropic funding for the parkway.
The separateness is crucial, as management and fundraising have to be solely dedicated to the parkway and be as accountable to donors and parkway users as they are to the public and local government.
The best example of this is the Central Park Conservancy, which raises 85 percent of the funding needed for Central Park in New York City.
While there may be little to compare between Sacramento and New York City, we can compare the significance of Central Park to New York City to the significance of the parkway to the Sacramento region.
A parkway-dedicated nonprofit would need to raise substantial amounts of money, requiring that the executive director be a nonprofit management professional adept at raising significant funding.
In the trying economic times our region has been dealing with, any discussion of increasing taxes or fees to help our parkway is counterproductive. However, philanthropy is still significant, with more than $307 billion raised nationally in 2008.
With the love our community has for the parkway, plus professional leadership, a parkway-dedicated nonprofit could be relied on to rally that love around preserving, protecting and strengthening the parkway long into the future.
David H. Lukenbill was the founding president and is currently the senior policy director of the American River Parkway Preservation Society.