Levee Fencing

While we support the concept of an unbroken trail along the Sacramento River, we do not support the use of eminent domain to take property from homeowners who have the legal right to fence in their part of the levee.

Respecting the private ownership of property is fundamental to our system of governance.

The wiser method is to slowly buy up the contested properties as owners become willing to sell.

An excerpt from a Sacramento Bee article about this.

“Two rivers converge in Sacramento. By at least one important measure, however, they couldn’t be more different.

“The American River provides wide-open public paths on both levees that frame it, all the way to Folsom Lake. A cyclist or an ambitious hiker can freely travel more than 30 miles along the river’s edge.

“The Sacramento River, however, brings a walker or cyclist up short. From the confluence with the American River, the public path along the Sacramento runs about five miles, to 25th Avenue, where it abruptly ends in a locked gate spanning the levee. It is the first of 12 such impediments that chop up public access to the Sacramento River shore in the Pocket and Little Pocket neighborhoods.

“The city of Sacramento is reviving a long-stalled plan to bring down the fences. The goal is an unbroken public path running another 10 miles to Freeport. The idea is stirring old emotions that kept the plan in the shadows for 15 years.

“Property owners along gated portions of the levee, who have enjoyed exclusive access to the river for decades, fear a tide of humanity bringing theft, vandalism and a loss of privacy and land value.

“I have a little piece of heaven on earth and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give it up,” said Jerry Balshor, a riverfront homeowner in the Little Pocket neighborhood, whose family has owned the property for 60 years. “This is going to open up a whole can of worms. It’s a dirty issue for a lot of us.”

“Others argue it is high time Sacramento took full advantage of its primary natural amenity: its river frontage.

“It would be nice to hop on my bike at the south end of the Pocket and go all the way to Folsom if I wanted to. But you can’t do that now,” said Jack Lawson, a Pocket homeowner for 13 years. “I’m very close to the levee and that’s one reason I bought a house there, because I saw the recreation opportunity. I think it should be open.”

“The fences stand thanks to the shifting sands of law and urban planning.

“Long-standing state law assures public access to levees and coastlines below the “mean high water mark.” Even behind private fences, the public is allowed to access the water’s edge, whether along the Sacramento River or the Pacific Ocean.

“But above the high water mark, access depends upon whether the property owner ever gave up a public access easement.

“Today’s wide-open levees on the American River exist because a vision for a public parkway was hatched by the city nearly a century ago, in 1915. Local government officials began acquiring land for the parkway in the 1960s, before much suburban development had occurred.

“The Sacramento River was not the subject of such foresight.

“When the Little Pocket and the north half of the Pocket were subdivided in the 1960s, neither city leaders nor state law required property owners to give up ownership of the levee or an easement on top. As a result, some of these property owners still hold a legal right to fence off their small piece of the levee.”

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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