Sacramento’s Gem Up For Grabs
We call it the Crown Jewel of Sacramento and are stingy about keeping it polished and protected. It generates an estimated $365,000,000 annually and more visits than Yosemite, yet it is underfunded and undervalued as a regional asset.
The American River Parkway provides our water, improves our air quality and supports diverse wildlife, including some of the last West Coast salmon runs. We go there to rest, recreate and reflect. The 23 mile stretch from Nimbus Dam to the confluence with the Sacramento River is officially designated as a Wild and Scenic River. It is the most heavily used recreation river in California.
TV news crews try to scare us silly when the river rises "near Flood Stage at the bottom of the Tower Bridge!" – just like it does every year. And every year, local media report that funding for the maintenance, health and safety of Sacramento's Jewel is in danger. The regional park system's share of Sacramento County's Discretionary General Fund went from 1.02% in 2005-06 to .36% in 2009-10.
How well do we appreciate and value the American River Parkway that is so central to our lives? What will it take to provide funding that makes the river safe, serene and secure, now and for future generations?
The Save The American River Association (SARA) had concluded that the best way to preserve the American River Parkway is to look at the bigger picture.
In response to devastating budget cuts and the possible dismantling of the Sacramento County Regional Parks and Open Space System by the County Board of Supervisors, SARA formed the Grassroots Working Group (GWG) in mid-2010.
The Group’s goal is to secure adequate, stable, long-term funding for operations, maintenance and expansion of the Regional Parks and Open Space System, which includes the American River Parkway, Cosumnes River Preserve, Deer Creek Hills, Dry Creek Parkway, Sacramento Delta Facilities and the Regional Parks at Mather, Elk Grove and Gibson Ranch.
According to SARA President, Warren V. Truitt, "The popularity of the American River Parkway – some 8,000,000 visits per year – now stresses Parkway capacity, especially during the warmer months. Therefore, SARA is supporting the effort to rescue our entire Regional Parks and Open Space System.”
The guiding vision of the Grassroots Working Group is a safe, accessible, well-maintained system of regional parks, farmland, open space and wild lands, linked by a non-motorized transportation network.
GWG's mission is to identify an appropriate structure to manage our regional parks and open space, coupled with a reliable funding stream for operations, maintenance, and expansion of the system.
In January, the Grassroots Working Group held a fundraiser at Rubicon Brewing Company on one of its “501(c) Wednesdays.” Rubicon's Glynn Phillips created this weekly event to benefit local 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations, by donating a portion of the day’s profits.
There is more GWG public outreach planned, with a Community Summit Meeting scheduled for March, 2011. Any planned ballot measures require approval in July 2012 to be on the November 2012 ballot.
To learn more about the Grassroots effort, including governance and funding options being studied, or to make a donation toward a public outreach and education campaign, visit www.sarariverwatch.org and click on the gold Grassroots Process button on the Home Page, or call (916) 482-2551.