Illegal Camping

In this excellent article in the Sacramento Bee  by County Supervisor Phil Serna, the focus is on the results—including more fires—of not having the resources to strongly clamp down on illegal camping.

Hopefully, as tax receipts appear to be higher, the County will be able to hire more Park Rangers, though the long term optimal solution to the historical troubles on the Parkway is that modeled by the Central Park Conservancy, management and fundraising by a nonprofit coproration, which we advocate.

An excerpt from the Bee article.

Here in Sacramento County we enjoy a unique natural setting that hugs one of our two large rivers: the American River Parkway. We cherish it, as we should, as a place to recreate, escape the trappings of urban life, and even to commute to and from work. These are all legitimate uses of our parkway.

Unfortunately, a recent Sacramento Bee editorial makes no mention of illegal camping – a prohibited activity – and the fire threat it poses (“With skimpy local support, parkway is set to go up in smoke,” Aug. 7).

Even before a local homeless woman was arrested in connection with the recent spate of fires, those of us who have spent time trying to enjoy the parkway as legitimate users (e.g., cyclists, anglers, runners, equestrians, etc.) know too well that homeless encampments often come with campfires and other ignition sources such as cigarettes, lighters, candles and camp stoves. Having participated in a number of parkway cleanups along the lower reach of the parkway, I can tell you firsthand that many of the illegal camps have as their centerpiece dangerous makeshift incendiary sources used for cooking, illumination and warmth.

Because of what I know from personal experience, including an accidental hypodermic needle stick during a cleanup, and from what I hear from my constituents, who deserve a clean and safe parkway, I have and will continue to forcefully advocate the prohibition of illegal camping in the parkway.

It is a glaring omission that in The Bee’s promotion of public databases and working groups to address parkway fires, it completely ignores the greatest fire threat there is: illegal homeless camps.

The county of Sacramento will continue to enforce the parkway’s sunrise-to-sunset hours; we will continue to enforce the ban on illegal camps; we will continue to perform warrant sweeps; and we will continue to have sheriff’s work crews regularly pick up trash and debris along the lower reach of the parkway….

Parkway advocates, users and anyone else interested in protecting such a community asset should note that final budget hearings begin the week of Sept. 9. This will be your time and mine to emphasize the need to protect our parkway from illegal camping and further destruction from fire by supporting the call for more county park rangers.

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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