Parkway Illegal Campers

An enlightening story from the Sacramento News & Review revealing how homeless campers avoid the ranger’s efforts to stop their illegal camping in the Parkway; and also revealing the need for more law enforcement tools that can be applied adjacent to the Parkway to further that work.

Complaints from the illegal campers mean the County is on the job, Bravo!

An excerpt.

“Beneath the rumbling overpass where Highway 160 crosses Northgate Boulevard, some two-dozen homeless men and women rest, shaded from the relentless afternoon sun. Sleepy pit bulls, bicycles and crumpled camping equipment lay among them as the people socialize, read and nap on this dusted plot of land.

“Stacy Selmants, lounging beneath a small tree, rises to join two women seated next to the bike trail as they talk about why they’ve chosen this hardened plot to see out the day.

“We’re here to avoid the rangers,” Selmants, 56, says as she takes off her battered 49ers cap. “We’re afraid to go back to our camps, because they’ll kick [us] out.”

“Each afternoon, up to 30 homeless men and women congregate alongside the bike path under Highway 160 to escape not just the harsh summer elements, but also Sacramento authorities. This is one of the few spaces in the region they can rest without police or rangers forcing them to move. As a result, it has turned into a spot for them to socialize and receive donations before the evening, when they can again set up camp along the wooded river.

“Whenever someone down here asks how you’re doing down here, Selmants says, you usually say, “Same shit, different day.” This is only in part a joke.

“The average American River Parkway camper’s day starts at 5:30 a.m., when he or she packs up and hurries onto the streets before park rangers arrive (usually around 6 a.m.) to hand out citations. The campers then make their twilit exodus to Friendship Park at Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, where they can spend the morning eating and cleaning up, as well as utilizing the center’s other services for the homeless.

“When Friendship Park closes at 2:45 p.m., its destitute patrons must find a place to rest and wait for the sun to set. Often, they post up under a building’s shade in the neighborhood surrounding Loaves & Fishes and Quinn Cottages. Some cool off at the beach or, like Selmants today, set up in the Highway 160 underpass and wait for the rangers to go home around 6 p.m.

“Sometimes, they’re even out until 7,” says Linda, an acquaintance of Selmants’, who prefers not to give her last name.”

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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