Update on Illegal Camping In Parkway

An August 3, 2012 report from Bob Slobe, also posted to the Woodlake Parkway Facebook page, notes the continuing failure of public leadership to rectify the deplorable situation.

Our Parkway Advocate Award—honorees listed on the Leadership Page of our website—is named in honor of Bob Slobe and is only given to those who play some role in their Parkway advocacy, by advocating for the most degraded section of the Parkway.

It is one of our guiding principles: “Regarding illegal camping by the homeless in the North Sacramento area of the Parkway:  Social and environmental justice calls upon us to help the poor and distressed person but not at the expense of the adjacent community to visit the Parkway safely.”

We feel that stopping illegal camping is one of the most important strategies that must be taken by public leadership and the content of Bob’s report from last week reveals why, once again.

Bob Slobe’s Report

“As most of you already know the City and County of Sacramento have turned the Woodlake Reach of the American River Parkway into a bum camping, fetid garbage pit. In the decades since my family gave over this stretch of the Parkway the destruction has escalated to the point that it is now unusable for recreation. Yes, you can “slip through” this section on your bike. Many bikers are knocked off their bikes while riding through by bums but most get by. In the jungle here it’s a small town of sex offenders and wanted felons. The Park Rangers know it and all of you probably do too. The City and the County have actually started to bring food to the bums here in the evenings lest they have to travel to Loaves and Fishes to get food. They exit their camps after a day of stealing and shooting up (also commonly known by rangers) and get their meal at Del Paso and Northgate. With seven murders in as many years in this small reach the County has yet to allocate adequate resources to handle the problem. The previous Parks Director actually ordered her rangers to “stand down” because of danger to themselves. These are folks with badges and guns. Now it appears her successor is following suit. One camp pictured here has been in the same place for three months untouched, right ON the equestrian trail!

“So the working poor population of North Sacramento is denied safe access to recreation, fishing and birding next to their neighborhood while the rich are safe and snug along their reaches of the Parkway. One can walk here all day without seeing a single person not a bum camper. Every day. While this solitude might seem precious for this single hiker, I welcome the day I find a friend that feels safe and walk by my side. No takers.

“The fossilized Parks Commission is, as ever, silent on the issue. The best I ever got at a public forum on the issue was a racist commissioner saying to me somewhat privately that “It would only be used by a bunch of Schwartzers.” Unimaginable. The City blames the County, the County blames the City and its social programming and both fund these programs, contributing to the problem each and every day. SARA, ARNHA and ARPF are silent as well. A probation office was recently forced upon us on Del Paso Boulevard with the promise that parolees would be engaged to clean up. From the thousands of pictures we have taken in the time since, that was obviously a lie. Always a broken promise here.

“The signs that tell you where to hike here are torn down, the emergency call boxes are long gone and garbage piles from bum camps grow every day. The only parking lot to this reach has been closed for years. While our City and County wring their hands on how to fix K Street (now at over $1billion over 30 years) and fret about arenas not built they can’t get the very basics right, safety and security. They talk of “tent cities” but only propose them to be right here where the working poor live. Shame on them. No Alcohol signs are in place, many now re-signed by the bums as “now alcohol.” The reach is littered with needles, pornography and emptied booze bottles, symbols of the County’s unwillingness to engage.

“We would like to sue but poor people don’t have that money or access to power. Gordian knot. If there were a way for us to take it back we, of course, would but the County not only won’t allow that, they won’t even agree to warn potential users of the dangers here. We offer free “danger” signs but they say no. I think daily of Adam Stein, stabbed to death in May of last year right at the bike trail by two bums. His memorial cross stands as a reminder with a flower garden at the base. You might want to come look. I bet you won’t.  His mother made a beautiful memorial for him to “turn this dangerous, ugly, awful place into something beautiful” right where he died. While we have tried to work with the Parks Department to identify sites of bum camps at their request they have completely stopped enforcement. They, of course, will tell you differently but the Rangers have been redeployed to the toney reaches upstream long ago. Those upstream reaches are “littered” with directional signage, doggie poop bags (maybe human ones needed here), newly planted trees and vegetation and swell benches and par courses. The updated so-called Parkway Plan envisioned NOTHING here. Why? The bums would tear it out.

“Of course, everyone’s responsible, everyone thinks everyone else is and nothing is done. Ghetto life.

“Today’s walk. Probably about 20 campers in a tiny area of the Leatherman Reach of the Parkway. Rangers and Jeff Leatherman think it’s funny now to just not enforce. Ironic. Remember not long ago they were so excited to help us. Oh well. Snake pit. I guess it’s good to know the sex offenders here are using protection when they rape women. See pictures.”

About David H Lukenbill

I am a native of Sacramento, as are my wife and daughter. I am a consultant to nonprofit organizations, and have a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Behavior and a Master of Public Administration degree, both from the University of San Francisco. We live along the American River with two cats and all the wild critters we can feed. I am the founding president of the American River Parkway Preservation Society and currently serve as the CFO and Senior Policy Director. I also volunteer as the President of The Lampstand Foundation, a nonprofit organization I founded in 2003.
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