The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to create a public recreational trail along Sacramento River levees in the Pocket and Little Pocket neighborhoods.
The action directs city staff to purchase public access easements from willing property owners along the levee. Some of those property owners maintain fences across the levee which, for decades, have blocked public access to large areas of the riverfront.
The city has no money to buy easements now, and it will be years to come before public access begins. But the council allocated $100,000 from an existing parkway development fund to pay for legal and property research to start the acquisition process.
The vote did not enact a new public access plan, but merely supported a parkway plan first approved by the City Council in 1975. That long-delayed plan also calls for paving existing gravel sections of the American River parkway path, a major recreation amenity in the region that will serve as a model for opening the Sacramento River levee.
"I do think having that kind of continuous access to the Sacramento River is vitally important," said Councilman Rob Fong, who represents the Little Pocket neighborhood. "This council has routinely and fairly been criticized for not taking fuller advantage of our other river."
About 40 people addressed the council on the issue. Riverfront property owners expressed concern about increased crime and loss of privacy if the levee is opened to the public. Recreation advocates said that, as taxpayers who support levee maintenance, they have a right to use the levee and would help keep it safe by watching for trouble.
A Police Department official told the council that, along the American River Parkway, the River Park neighborhood does not experience a higher rate of crime because of its proximity to the river path. In fact, crime in that neighborhood is down 25 percent since 2007.
"To think that creating a bikeway will accellerate or make crime worse, I do not buy that," Councilman Steve Cohn said.
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