The American River Parkway Foundation strongly disagrees with Erika D. Smith’s column (“County’s parkway plan to roust the homeless is waste of $5 million,” Insight, July 13), but agrees with her earlier piece about threats to the parkway.
More than a natural setting, the American River Parkway is an economic driver for the Sacramento region, generating $364 million, according to a 2006 report. It is also a tourist destination with 8 million visits a year – twice as many as Yosemite National Park – and is on numerous top 10 lists for cycling and running.
Marathoners, professional bicyclists and triathletes train on the parkway’s 23 miles of trail for events that generate between $10 million and $15 million in hotel taxes. In a recent Sacramento State poll done for Valley Vision, the parkway ranked as the best civic amenity; 56 percent said that parks and trails were most in need of investment.
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The sad reality is that the parkway is being destroyed by illegal campers. Cottonwood groves are being cut down to create makeshift shelters. Fires have consumed more than 500 acres in the past two years. Camps are now scattered up and down the entire parkway.
More than 6,000 people volunteer through the foundation to pull up invasive plants, pick up trash and remove graffiti. They encounter needles and pipes. I invite Smith and others to join one of our cleanups or to tour the parkway to see the destruction that continues to occur.
The parkway is Sacramento’s greatest civic amenity. Ensuring that residents, taxpayers and tourists can use the “Jewel of Sacramento” without fear is just smart business.
Dianna Poggetto of Carmichael is executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.