American River Parkway advocates ask Sacramento County for more money

A bicyclist crosses over the bridge between River Bend Park and the William B. Pond Recreation Area, two of the parks along the American River Parkway..
A bicyclist crosses over the bridge between River Bend Park and the William B. Pond Recreation Area, two of the parks along the American River Parkway.. Sacramento Bee file

Nonprofit leaders concerned about the decline of the American River Parkway and other Sacramento County amenities made a pitch Wednesday for a portion of $4 million in hotel tax revenue.

In the past seven years, the county’s “transient occupancy tax,” a 12 percent fee on hotel rooms, has declined from almost $7 million to just under $4 million. The recession reduced other county funds, which led county supervisors to tap the hotel tax for services once funded by other means.

Some supervisors would like to see a dedicated amount of the hotel tax revenue set aside for specific uses, such as civic amenities and economic development. The board held a workshop Wednesday to discuss funding possibilities but could not agree on how much should be dedicated for specific uses.

Most organizations seeking funding Wednesday are connected to the American River Parkway or advocate for its improvement. They also emphasized the need to improve existing county resources, instead of spending money on developing new amenities.

Specifically, the Save the American River Association and other groups criticized the county for dedicating $100,000 a year for the Powerhouse Science Center. The county plans to pay that amount over 20 years for the museum planned for Sacramento’s riverfront.

SARA representatives want the county to spend more money maintaining the parkway, “the crown jewel of Sacramento.” While the organization did not submit a spending proposal, representatives said it was a good use of hotel tax revenue.

Two nonprofits running county property also asked for assistance. Shawn Harrison, founder and co-director of Soil Born Farms, said the organization needs help maintaining the American River Ranch. The urban farming organization is based on the historic 55-acre ranch owned by the county and located on the parkway in Rancho Cordova.

“The ranch is a diamond in the rough, and I want to emphasize rough,” Harrison told supervisors.

Representatives of Effie Yeaw Nature Center, on the other side of the parkway in Carmichael, also asked for financial assistance from the county. The nonprofit American River Natural History Association took over operations from the county in 2010, but the county still owns the property.

Homeless advocates said money should go to housing, to keep the homeless off the parkway and reduce the money spent on park rangers.

Supervisors said they recognize the needs of the parkway and other areas but say the requests must compete against other needs.

Supervisor Susan Peters said she is uncomfortable taking too much revenue from the general fund, which goes to essential services such as law enforcement.

Board Chairman Phil Serna and Supervisor Don Nottoli said they had hoped the workshop would result in the county dedicating more money for its civic amenities and quality-of-life improvements.

County Executive Brad Hudson said he will bring the hotel tax issue back to the board as part of larger budget discussion later this year.

Call The Bee’s Brad Branan, (916) 321-1065. Follow him on Twitter @BradB_at_SacBee.