Saturday, August 07, 2010

Public Safety Volunteers on the American

A nice story from the Sacramento Bee about the volunteers working at the American River Confluence area.

We could really use some folks like this in the Lower Reach area of the Parkway--from Discovery Park to Cal Expo--long considered the most dangerous stretch of the Parkway, see this 2004 story from the Sacramento News & Review.

Things are still pretty dicey on the Parkway as the Parkway Rangers Report from this June notes.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

“You know it's going to be another hot summer weekend when, early on a Saturday morning, you head down the canyon from Auburn and already see a conga line of cars parked along the roadside leading to the American River confluence.

“No surprise, really. What is a confluence, after all, if not a coming together – not just of the north and middle forks of the river but of a cross section of humanity out to hike, raft, sunbathe or just loll on the banks to ease the oppressive heat?

“Every weekend, the masses tote kids, dogs, beach blankets, boogie boards and ice chests. They cross Highway 49 and descend the steep and dusty path, drawn to the cooling roar of the rapids. No parking or park fee, here. This is free, unfettered fun.

“Of the 48,000 acres in the Auburn State Recreation Area, the confluence is hardly the only hot spot. But its highway-close convenience and easy access draws hundreds most days, which can make life difficult for overworked and understaffed state park rangers, already facing furloughs and hiring freezes.

"On July 4," reported ranger Michelle Craig, "we had only three rangers on duty for 48,000 acres. You just hope to be in the right place at the right time."

“Stepping into the void – at least at the populated confluence hangout – is a small but hearty band of volunteers, the Canyon Keepers.

“Each weekend, and on holidays during the spring and summer months, two people from the organization spend afternoons patrolling the area to help the sick and injured, assist in enforcing rules ranging from keeping dogs on leashes to a ban on barbecues. Occasionally, they will point out a good hiking trail or answer a wilderness question.

“They are part policemen, part docents. Their only real authority, if push comes to shove, is to call in the rangers to end a dispute. Not that it comes to that, most times.”