Saturday, September 04, 2010

Parks Conversation

The Sacramento Bee has a good conversation going online about what to do about funding parks, including the Parkway.

Many of the responses are quite good and this one (on the first page of the conversation), from a pubic safety perspective by the president of a law enforcement association, is especially important.

An excerpt.

“Our public lands, including the American River Parkway are in tremendous need of additional funding, if we are to save these priceless natural resources from criminals and neglect.

“As the President of the association representing the Sacramento County Park Rangers, I have requested the county look at consolidating the police functions of the Rangers and the Sheriff's Department. I believe a consolidation is the best way for the county to provide adequate security to the public, and protection for the flora and fauna along the Parkway.

“Currently, the twenty-three mile Parkway is patrolled solely by one Ranger for five to six hours per shift. There is a second Ranger assigned to the Parkway during this same period, however the second Ranger is on contract to patrol other parks in the county, and unavailable to provide back-up in the event of an emergency. This second Ranger averages only two to three hours per shift actually on the Parkway. …

“The Parkway has many homeless camps nestled in the brush that have been known to provide hiding places for many local and transient criminals. These camps gone unchecked pose a serious threat to the public and the Ranger.

“The American River Parkway is heavily used year round by cyclist, boaters, swimmers, rafters, runners, walkers, bird watchers, people fishing, and families picnicking. Most of the people who use the Parkway, come to enjoy these activities and respect the natural environment.

“However, it is not unusual for the Ranger to be called to a domestic dispute, large fight, or party where several people have consumed too much alcohol and/or drugs. Rangers oftentimes find themselves out numbered.

“The Parkway is home to many birds, fish, deer, coyotes, and other animals. In addition to being police officers, Rangers are educated and trained to deal with the needs of these various species, and responsible for providing them with a safe environment. Currently there isn't adequate staffing to provide these vital functions. Over fifty per cent of the Park Rangers have been laid off in the last year.

“My suggestion for saving our Parkway and other public lands is for the county to move the Park Rangers to the Sheriff's Department where they have access to more resources; consolidate and downsize management at the Parks Department, and shift any savings to the Sheriff's Department for use on the Parkway.”