American River Parkway backers mark 50th anniversary

Published: Sunday, Jun. 5, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3B

Park lovers who gathered in the rain at the William Pond Recreation Area on Saturday spent more time discussing the past and future than chatting about the present weather.

Despite steady showers, more than 100 showed up to mark the 50th anniversary of the Save the American River Association and to see the unveiling of a monument to William B. Pond, the county's first parks director often referred to as father of the American River Parkway.

Pond was recalled for the vision he had in foreseeing that the parkway could be pieced together to allow recreation and natural preservation in the face of development.

Starting in 1959, he traveled the area – sometimes trespassing aboard his horse, Copper – to talk to property owners, said Warren Truitt, current president of SARA.

Pond's granddaughter, Rachel Pond Camero, recalled how he came out, at 88, to watch her compete in Eppie's Great Race in 2006.

Pond died in 2009.

"I feel extremely lucky that myself and my family and my children, we get the enjoyment of this parkway forever more," Camero said.

William Griffith carried a photocopied clipping showing himself receiving an early SARA membership in 1965, and a copy of the SARA card signed by Effie Yeaw, namesake of the parkway's nature center.

"I wanted to see the parkway as a place that protected wildlife," said Griffith, a retired Fish and Game wildlife biologist. He recalled commuting three miles to work on the parkway – by kayak, because it was faster than driving.

While some looked back, advocates looked forward to developing a way to insulate the parkway and other parks from budget woes that threaten them.

"We do not want to lose them as we know them," said Truitt.

"What we're really trying to do is protect what's here," said Charlie Willard, of SARA's grass-roots working group.

The group is interested in seeing the parks spun off from the county as their own, independent district, with the county's 2008-2009 parks budget as the base for funding.

They advocate a one-tenth-cent sales tax allocation – a penny on every $10 spent – to go to parks.

As it is, budget cuts threaten to make eight rangers cover all parks in the county, not just the parkway.

"Frankly, it's (now) not as safe and clean as we'd like it," Truitt told the crowd.

Recognizing that Camero's "forever more" is possible only with continued funding, they repeated the need to keep working on behalf of the parks.

Attendees echoed a phrase from a statement sent by Steve Pond – William's son and Camero's father – and vowed to wage "a conspiracy for good."

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Read more articles by Carlos Alcalá

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