Sacramento County

Sacramento County Chief Ranger Stan Lumsden

Q&A: The county’s chief park ranger answers questions on wildfires, illegal camping

Published: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 12:11 am

Sacramento County park rangers have a sometimes thankless and dangerous job, patrolling more than 15,000 acres – from wildlands to neighborhood parks.

Whether it is telling a dog owner that he can’t let his pooch go off-leash on a ball field or facing an angry illegal camper along the American River Parkway, rangers must be calm but firm.

Rangers enforce park law at the county’s 32 recreation areas.

Recently, Chief Ranger Stan Lumsden was authorized to hire four more rangers, bringing the force to 20.

Is there any way to prevent wildfires on the parkway, which are sometimes caused by arsonists?

Preventing arson fires is difficult given the human element. However, we do catch arsonists from time to time. Sacramento police recently arrested an arson suspect near Northgate Boulevard and Highway 160. Current dry conditions make it critical that we are vigilant in curtailing illegal campfires. Our rangers are very sensitive to open fires in the park and take appropriate enforcement action when they encounter illegal fires.

We are working in collaboration with the Sacramento City Fire Department and Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District to enhance the fire breaks in the park. In the event a fire does start, it will be easier to contain.

Are vehicle break-ins in park parking lots becoming a bigger problem, or are they diminishing?

Unfortunately, vehicle burglaries continue to occur. Most of the time, the thief takes items that are loose in the vehicle. Common items stolen include GPS devices, cellphones, laptop computers or any other valuable item left in plain sight. The best defense is for people to not leave valuables in plain sight. The number of burglaries go up and down. This is a crime of opportunity and can happen anywhere a car is parked.

Are you making a dent in the amount of illegal camping in the area from Discovery Park to Cal Expo?

Yes, through a two-pronged approach – the people component and the physical environment element.

Our camp-detail rangers patrol and enforce the illegal camping rules in the parkway daily. The Sheriff’s Department and the Sacramento Police Department also provide valuable support. We have been successful at eliminating the large camps that generate a lot of garbage. Additionally, the Department of Human Assistance helps direct individuals to services.

We also have a very important relationship with work details from the Sheriff’s and Probation departments and other organizations such as the American River Parkway Foundation. They all provide services to help clean up the parkway.

Rafting Gone Wild, a gathering spawned by social networking, marked by drinking and rafting on the American River, has been a problem in the past. How did it go this year?

We did not have incidents such as big fights that occurred last year, and the arrests were minimal. A thorough plan, including the enforcement of the no-alcohol ban, as well as ensuring that all those on the water had life jackets, made things much smoother. The collaborative relationship among the public safety agencies made all the difference in making it a better and safer day for all.

What is your favorite spot along the parkway?

One of my favorites is the area around the Guy West Bridge. It reminds me of my college days at Sac State. I also really like the Delta area where we have parks such as Sherman Island, Georgiana Slough and Hogback Island. The Delta has a certain vibe that is distinctly different and interesting.

You recently got authority from the Board of Supervisors to hire four more rangers. Will the new hires augment regular park patrols?

Yes, the new rangers will allow us to have a greater presence in the American River Parkway, the Dry Creek Parkway and other parks. We plan to continue to focus on making all our regional parks safe, and we will continue to focus on the quality-of-life issues our park users are interested in. This includes unsafe trail behavior, dogs off-leash and illegal camping.

The county bought a LiDAR device, similar to what California Highway Patrol officers use on highways to measure car speeds. Have you ticketed any bicyclists who exceeded the 15 mph speed limit on the trail? Are riders slowing down?

The LiDAR is an extremely accurate pinpoint speed measurement device and is therefore a very effective bike speed enforcement tool. We have not issued any citations yet. We recognize that this is a major shift in philosophy on the parkway, and educating the bicyclists to change behavior is the ultimate goal. At some point, we will begin to issue citations. We respond to bicycle crashes on the trail and receive complaints about unsafe speeding bicyclists and groups of cyclists regularly. Judging from the conversations that we have had with the community, cyclists are very much aware that they need to watch their speed while on the trail and know that we can write speeding tickets. Our rangers have wide discretion, much like any other law enforcement officer in whether they issue citations or not. Again, the ultimate goal is to make the trail safe for all users.

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

Read more articles by Bill Lindelof

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