Soapbox

How parkway safety goes beyond citations

A homeless man rides his bike through the burned remains of grass and trees in Discovery Park in August 2015.
A homeless man rides his bike through the burned remains of grass and trees in Discovery Park in August 2015. rpench@sacbee.com

While it is true that Sacramento County park rangers have decreased citations for illegal camping (“To reduce illegal camps in parkway, ranger says citations don’t do much,” Insight, Dec. 20), the broader context is that simply issuing citations does not adequately address the concerns around homelessness in the American River Parkway.

Leaders in Sacramento County Regional Parks continuously assess their operations; if current law enforcement methods are not having the desired effect, it makes sense to change the approach. At the urging of county Supervisor Phil Serna, beginning in early 2017, a team of five rangers – increasing to seven when vacancies are filled – will work daily to address illegal camping along the parkway. The team’s focus will be enforcing county and city ordinances on littering, damaging vegetation and others.

Public safety is paramount in this effort. The rangers will partner with other agencies to protect parkway visitors. For example, rangers may work with animal care to address aggressive animals accompanying illegal campers.

Homelessness is complex. Solutions, especially for the long-term homeless population living on our parkways and streets, are especially challenging and ultimately not solved solely through law enforcement. The county is exploring significant new approaches. The Board of Supervisors has asked staff for a proposal for a flexible housing program to provide outreach and services, and to explore options for persons not served in traditional homeless shelters.

We need to look at new, innovative ways to align programs, policies and funding. As the single largest provider of social services in the region – spending more than $40 million annually – the county takes its role seriously to provide assistance and services to the homeless, along the American River Parkway and beyond.

Roberta MacGlashan is chairwoman of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and can be contacted at macglashanr@saccounty.net. Don Nottoli is vice-chairman and can be contacted at nottolid@saccounty.net.

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