Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Homelessness & the Parkway

This is an excellent, balanced, and appropriate article in the Sacramento Bee today by a member of the County Board of Supervisors, the agency with ultimate responsibility for managing the American River Parkway.

It should bring a measure of hope to the long suffering communities adjacent to the Lower Reach—Discovery Park to Cal Expo—who have been unable to safely access their part of the Parkway for many years.

An excerpt.

“Much has been reported in recent days regarding the situation along the lower reach of the American River Parkway. Unfortunately, there's been a predictable attempt by some to hijack public attention to narrowly advocate their cause instead of acknowledging the complexities of the situation.

“Dealing with those complexities and seeking solutions is the responsibility of your local elected officials. As one of them, I've made every effort during the past three weeks to thoughtfully and compassionately address the issue of illegal camping, public safety, environmental impact and homelessness. Admittedly, it is not an easy thing to do 50 days into the job.

“Parkway users deserve a safe, clean environment free from harassment or other personal threat. They should not feel compelled to avoid the parkway for fear of their own safety, which is what a number of constituents have conveyed to my office in recent weeks. They deserve better; we all deserve better.

“The American River Parkway offers one of the best recreational opportunities anywhere in the country, but it will be enjoyed only if it is safe. To that end, local law enforcement, including Sacramento County park rangers, have established added presence along the lower reach of the parkway to enhance public safety and to encourage parkway users to return.

“Let's also remember that the parkway itself is a "constituent" here. Illegal camping has produced tons of trash and debris, some of which is hazardous biological waste. Illegal campgrounds, large and small, "self-governed" or not, contribute to this problem. Along the American River Parkway, refuse has collected in makeshift dumps, and what doesn't remain in these derelict collection sites oftentimes is spread by the wind, is scavenged by animals or ends up pooled along the riverbanks.

“And at the risk of making readers cringe, we should not forget that human beings produce waste that without appropriate sanitation facilities can spread disease and even end up in our river system – the same system used for swimming, boating, fishing and drinking water.”