The American River Parkway is Sacramento County’s urban jewel, but in recent years, it’s become tarnished with litter, debris and close encounters with aggressive dogs protecting homeless campers.
“I’ve had pit bulls coming after me,” said Mike Golden, a bicyclist on the American River Parkway. “I’ve had two pitbulls coming out after me, one each side.”
Golden loves biking along the parkway, but told KCRA 3 he’s increasingly concerned about public safety.
“You’ve got a small minority of the population, the homeless — they are really destroying it for the vast majority of the users of the Parkway,” Golden said.
There are hundreds of people living illegally along the American River Parkway.
For Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, the issue is personal after he suffered a health scare during a cleanup of the American River Parkway.
“I was accidentally stuck by a hypodermic needle,” Serna said.
“We continue to see not just hypodermic needles but propane tanks and large trash piles and off-leash dogs that are aggressive,” he said.
The needle incident occurred several years ago, but Serna now wants to allocate $5 million to add up to 10 additional park rangers, increasing the number from roughly 25 to 35.
“There would be several more teams of park rangers working collaboratively with park maintenance staff, community prosecutors, social workers to make sure we’re keeping the parkway clean, safe and make sure the people that need help the most here are going to receive that help.”
The money would be used to help remove people who are camping illegally and causing environmental harm.
Jeremy Donnelson and Mary Weick live in a homeless encampment just 100 yards from the bike trail in Discovery Park. They said they’ve been living behind tarps for four months and have never seen a park ranger.
They’re not happy about the prospect of someone telling them to move.
“I would feel that would be taking away from the homeless, like the government’s been trying to do for a long time and trying to make being homeless illegal,” Weick said.
“Being homeless yeah it’s illegal whatever, but there’s more people becoming homeless because less jobs,” Donnelson added. “But they have to realize that we need a place to go too.”
While some in the homeless community might want permanent low-cost housing, it’s not for everyone.
“I can only handle indoors for so long,” Donnelson said. “I don’t know what it is about indoors. I’m indoors for a while and I start getting antsy. I can’t stand being indoors for too long.”
But for many people who enjoy activities on the parkway, it’s really a matter of safety.
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