Sacramento County leaders are considering a multi-million-dollar plan to remove illegal campers and to clean up the American River Parkway.
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors are considering a plan that would set aside an additional $3 million to $5 million to hire additional park rangers, maintenance crews, and animal control workers for the parkway.
The American River Parkway spans 23-miles, includes 15 parks and beaches, and is visited by more than 5 million people per year.
County Supervisor Phil Serna who proposed the funding plan said recent animal attacks, fires, and trash along the parkway have made it dangerous for the public to visit. Many of those issues stem from illegal campers and homeless living along the trail, Serna said.
"If we continue to be satisfied with the status quo of the condition of the American River Parkway as it is today, which is something that I'm not interested in doing,” said Serna. “But, if it's the will of the board, that that's the priority, I think we can expect that it just will be lost quite frankly forever."
This proposal comes after Sacramento County leaders earlier this year approved a measure to build a low barrier shelter that could house up to 300 homeless and their animals per year, while providing services to get back on their feet.
Andre Gayet, 75, has lived near the American River Parkway for the last 14 years at his home just north of downtown Sacramento. He went to the county government building on Wednesday to attend a public meeting discussing the plan.
Gayet brought dozens of photos that showed the conditions along the parkway. He said he has found human waste, needles, trash, and homeless camps along the parkway near his home.
"The water-way is a beautiful place. I have no problem with cleaning that up,” said Gayet. "But putting money at it is not going to do it."
Gayet would like to see the homeless put into rehab instead of hiring more park rangers to enforce the no camping ban.
Board President Ken Cross with the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness said he is against the funding plan.
“It’s criminalizing homelessness,” said Cross. “These are not real solutions, they’re just knee jerk reactions.”
Cross commended the county for its plan to help the homeless approved earlier this year but said the money talked about in the current plan could be put to better use.
“They’re not doing near enough,” said Cross.
The Director of the American River Parkway Foundation (ARPF), a non-profit dedicated to preserving the natural landscape of the parkway, Dianna Poggetto approves of the plan.
ARPF volunteers have collected 25 tons of trash along the parkway so far this year and the problem is worsening, she said.
"There is so much at stake for the parkway to keep what we have instead of it being destroyed," said Poggetto.