Parkway Rangers

An excellent story from the Sacramento News & Review illuminating the tough work Sacramento County does keeping the Parkway safe, and the dedication and competence of the two men most in charge of that effort, Chief Ranger Lumsden and Parks Director Leatherman.

If you read this story along with the posted story of July 5th, it is obvious that the effort to stop illegal camping in the Parkway is having a substantial impact.

Bravo to both men for their work!

An excerpt.

“Stan Lumsden’s taste in wall art explains everything you need to know about Sacramento County’s chief park ranger. Framed posters for A Few Good Men and Heartbreak Ridge are signs that the big, clear-eyed Lumsden digs tough-guy movie fare, while a replica portrait of Seinfeld’s Kramer indicates an appreciation for wacky hijinks.

“And it’s a good thing, too, as the retired Roseville police captain approaches his second year on the parks beat. He took over enforcement of the 23-mile American River Parkway vein during interesting times in September 2011—homeless camps became a political cause, river partying went viral and speed-racing cyclists pissed off pedestrians.

“As the summer season gets cracking—and as Rafting Gone Wild plots a “secret” river-party return—Lumsden welcomed SN&R into his office for a chat on homeless garbage, trail etiquette and the best way to stop a speeding cyclist. Regional parks director Jeff Leatherman popped in partway through.

“It’s getting busier on the trails. How much of the job entails reminding people of proper trail decorum?

Stan Lumsden: If we encounter someone doing something that looks unsafe—for example, let’s say a person is jogging down the middle of the trail with headphones on—we get their attention and remind them of the etiquette rules and why it’s in their best interest to follow those rules.

“With pedestrians, there’s no codified law that we can issue them a citation. In other words, if someone’s walking on the wrong side of the trail, it’s not a good idea, but it’s nothing we can cite somebody for.

“With the cyclists, have you cited any for speeding yet?

Lumsden: All warnings at this point.

“What has the reaction been so far?

Lumsden: Initially, when we announced to the community that we were going to do this, we got a lot of negative feedback. That has dwindled in the last few days, and I’m getting a lot of positive feedback now from the community, saying it’s about time that somebody paid attention to this.

“What’s the best way to stop a cyclist?

Lumsden: For us, it’s to wave them over. To get them on the lidar at a distance, give them plenty of time to see the ranger. Clearly, we’re not going to engage in pursuing people in an automobile. Potentially, we could on our dual-sport motorcycles, but it hasn’t come to that. Most people are pretty reasonable. There’s always that small faction of people that’s going to split, but I don’t envision that happening on the bike trail.

“Last year, you participated in a few warrant sweeps along the trail. How do those come about?

Lumsden: There’s really no criteria, if you will. It’s a subjective call, really, as to when we do that. Obviously, our rangers are out contacting people on a regular basis, and when they have warrants, they go to jail.

“So, is it just like seasonal?

Jeff Leatherman: You’re looking for a hard and fast rule on what we do, and there isn’t one.

Lumsden: Yeah, there isn’t one. I mean, that’s the honest answer: There’s no formula for when we do this. I don’t know what else to tell you.

“You’re doing daily raids on some of these camps. Is it the size that dictates?

Lumsden: If it exists. We contact people that are breaking the law. If they’re camping illegally in the park—whether it’s one tent or three tents, one person or 10 people—we have rangers, that’s their full-time job, is camp enforcement. They make contact with them and do whatever is appropriate at the time, whether that be to issue a citation … [or] if it’s an unoccupied camp, to post a notice for that camp to move.

“Are rangers seeing more of these illegal camps?

Lumsden (to Leatherman): This might be an opportune time to show him [the] Mobile 311 [Citizen Self-Service application].

“(Lumsden pulls up a software application on his desktop computer showing a satellite-view map of the parkway. Two areas in particular—along Highway 160 and around Discovery Park—are clustered with icons indicating occupied and unoccupied camps and garbage that were noted in the past 90 days. Rangers in the field use their smartphones to upload photos. Lumsden pulls up one photo showing clothes, wrappers and plastic bags cluttered around a shaded nook of the parkway.)

Lumsden: You can see here what looks like the remnants of a camp. There’s just stuff strewn all over the place. That’s fairly common.”

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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