The Sacramento Bee has published a nice story about the visionary people who played an early role in the American River Parkway ( a subject we posted on previously), with a focus on Elmer Aldrich, who recently died.
I was fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Aldrich a few years ago and he sent me a copy of his 1952 article, A Long-Needed Park System For The Sacramento Region—which should be republished—which is truly visionary.
In it he wrote:
“We have in the Sacramento region a perfect stage setting for a conservation project of note. Sacramento, at the Apex of two great river courses, is perhaps the only city of its size in the country that has not developed them into parks or at least made them available for public use.
“Approximately six months ago a civic-minded handful of citizens met in the County Court House and decided to do something about making plans for developing natural type parks along the rivers. This group now known as The River Recreation and Parks Association is soliciting support from all local clubs and civic groups. Briefly their three-point program is this:
“(1) Promote development of areas along the rivers in city ownership.
“(2) Promote the acquisition and development of river recreation areas by the State, and
“(3) Promote the establishment of a Regional Park District.”
(From “The Observer”, the newsletter of the Sacramento Audubon Society, in the March-April, 1952 issue, pages 2-3.)
An excerpt from the Sacramento Bee story.
“Sacramento has had its share of farsighted people who have fought for public parks and natural areas. What has been difficult, however, is translating vision into reality. It has taken the persistence of people who devote their lives to an idea and a place.
“Elmer Aldrich, who died May 7 at age 95, was one of them. His life's work was envisioning and shepherding a park system for the Sacramento region. The American River Parkway, which Aldrich championed for more than 60 years, is one result.
“A naturalist and state parks conservation supervisor, Aldrich came to Sacramento after World War II and lived in River Park. From the beginning, he saw the potential value of the Sacramento and American rivers and the potential threat of sprawl in the postwar boom.
“In 1952, Aldrich wrote a piece for the Audubon Observer titled "A Long-Needed Park System for the Sacramento Region." It could be a blueprint still today.
"We have in the Sacramento region," he noted, "a perfect stage setting for a conservation project of note. Sacramento at the apex of two great river courses is perhaps the only city of its size in the country that has not developed them into parks or at least made them available for public use."
“He announced that a "civic-minded handful of citizens" had created a group to "do something about making plans for developing natural type parks along the rivers." This group sought an "integrated park system" connected by a parkway – on the Sacramento River from Verona, 15 miles north of the city, to Rio Vista, 50 miles south of the city, and on the American River from Folsom Dam to the confluence.
“Aldrich was not the first to come up with this idea. Wanting to plan a city worthy of the capital of California, Sacramento in 1914 hired John Nolen, a renowned city planner and landscape architect, to design a park system to rival Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The city never fully implemented it. But Aldrich had seen Nolen's maps outlining a river parkway.”