Soapbox

Parkway needs help from state

Two bicyclists watch an egret in a slough beside the American River Parkway.
Two bicyclists watch an egret in a slough beside the American River Parkway. Sacramento Bee file

In the Legislature’s final push, one bill that deserves attention is Assembly Bill 1716, the Lower American River Conservancy Act.

Authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat, the bill would let the American River Parkway compete for funding through future bonds, money not available through limited state allocations and a stretched county budget.

The parkway is a jewel of the region. In addition to recreational activities, the parkway provides natural habitat, flood control and a nature-friendly transportation artery. Yet there is significant room to extend the parkway’s benefits to more residents.

While private funding and foundations offer amenities on the eastern and central sections of the parkway, it changes character downriver. The challenge of the homeless is well-documented, and the western section lacks destinations to attract visitors. Given the proximity to midtown Sacramento and Del Rio, nature centers, interpretive trail systems or play areas for children would dramatically improve the parkway’s benefits. By carefully establishing these improvements, we can also preserve the parkway’s natural settings.

As stewards and benefactors of this amazing local resource, we should no longer accept two distinct areas of the parkway.

Understandably, concerns will be raised about the cost to taxpayers. But AB 1716 is not a tax.

Passed by the Senate last week and now before the Assembly, the bill allows for a modest administrative budget, but was specifically written to leverage funds already authorized for conservation activities in other parts of the state. The bill would simply give us the same opportunity as others. While we can hope for private donations, the state remains the most likely source of money for parkway improvements.

As a Sacramento County Parks and Recreation commissioner, I have worked with the county Parks Department for three years and can attest that it is a careful steward of the parkway and taxpayer dollars.

Despite several amendments, the bill has maintained the support of the county Board of Supervisors and others. Lawmakers should see AB 1716 as part of the broader transformation in Sacramento. Nature’s role in urban renewal is no longer just nice to have; residents expect growth and redevelopment to consciously account for nature.

Giving the necessary resources to the parkway benefits all citizens and is a critical part of the positive transformation of our region.

Andrew Grant lives in Folsom and is a Sacramento County Parks and Recreation commissioner. He can be contacted at grantaf1@gmail.com.

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