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Clean-up event along the American River Parkway hopes to spark action among local leaders

On Saturday, a clean-up event was hosted near the Northgate area to show local leaders the damage caused by camping first-hand in what was once a clean area.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The American River Parkway Foundation is calling on leaders from Sacramento County and the city of Sacramento to submit a plan by Mar. 31 for removing hundreds of unhoused individuals along the parkway. 

On Saturday, they hosted a clean-up event and invited leaders to the Northgate area to participate and see the damage caused by camping first-hand in what was once a clean and peaceful area.

"The city and the county can work together to say 'How do we address the number of homeless individuals that are in this greater region," said Dianna Poggetto, executive director of American River Parkway Foundation. "When you're picking up soiled blankets and picking up hypodermic needles, it's one thing versus looking at them on a picture."

Poggetto says the foundation, along with many who use the trails surrounding the parkway, is fed up with constantly encountering hazards caused by the unhoused individuals.

"If they don't feel safe out on the parkway then the parkway itself is being destroyed," said Poggetto.

"They're frustrated and they're right to be frustrated," said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg who attended Saturday's cleanup event.

Steinberg says the city and the county are both working together to try and achieve breakthrough solutions when it comes to addressing the issue of homelessness in the Sacramento region.

"We're working hard on a major downtown project that would allow us to be able to accommodate hundreds, maybe thousands over time" said Steinberg. "We just bought 102 acres in South Sacramento which is going to be a key place for safe parking."

Steinberg says the city can lead on a lot of the siting issues, while the county provides mental health and substance abuse services.

"Once we have that capacity or more capacity, then we can legally and morally say to people 'You can't live on the river' but until we have the alternatives, where are we telling people to go," he said.

Another concern many people have is the high amount of brush fires in the area — some of them human caused. Sacramento Fire says they responded to 150 fires along the parkway last year.

"One of our biggest concerns is our ability and our access to the parkway for fire and also our water supply," said Jason Lee, a fire marshal for the Sacramento Fire Department. "Our biggest focus this year is on vegetation management and ways to really kind of help this area to reduce the amount of fire danger."

ABC10 spoke to one unhoused woman in the area who goes by the name Kneisha.

"There's a lot of us out here that believe in keeping mother nature clean, but there's a lot out here that just like to leave out their trash and that's why people frown upon us," she said.

"We are going to continue to work together to try and find relief for the people suffering and also for the people who want to use this beautiful parkway," said Steinberg.

Watch: Catalytic converter thefts on the rise in California | How lawmakers hope to stop the thieves

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