The concept of creating the American River Parkway can be traced back as far as the 1920s, but the actual creation of the park took place in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. Impetus came when land speculators begin buying up the relatively inexpensive land along the river for future development.
Conservation-minded visionaries of the time realized a regional treasure was about to be lost. A prized riparian habitat of great beauty and recreational value to the community of Sacramento would soon give way to bulldozers, for sale signs, and limited public access. Armed with passion and facts, these early environmental leaders were able to persuade the City and County of Sacramento to create the parkway.
And for that, we owe the environmentalists and elected officials a deep vote of gratitude. The American River Parkway is an urban asset that few communities throughout the US, or for that matter around the world, can claim.
The battle to maintain the natural resources of the parkway continues. The balance between recreational use and protection of the riparian habitat is a delicate one. Tough financial times and deep budget cuts led local politicians to insist that the parkway pay more of its maintenance costs. And this, unfortunately, has led to a demand for increased recreational use to pick up the tab, which is threatening the natural environment. Birds, plants and animals don’t contribute to the public till, at least not directly. Nor do they vote.
Although free parks benefit everyone, there is nothing wrong with insisting that people who use the park help pay for its maintenance. And it is healthy that volunteers have stepped in to take up the slack created by fewer park staff. Continued government support is needed as well, however.
The City of Sacramento recently voted to spend $250 million dollars to build a basketball stadium downtown. While it isn’t my purpose to oppose the stadium, it does seem to me if local politicians can find money to support what is basically a private venture that will serve some 700 thousand basketball fans per year, they should be able to find funds to support the community’s greatest asset that serves 5 million people per year. And will continue to– far into the future. Don’t you think?
The American River Parkway is used by people of all ages and persuasions. Below is a photo of Peggy with her dad, John Dallen, on the river. When John and his wife Helen reached their mid-80s, their children– Peggy, Jane Hagedorn, and John Jr.– insisted that they come out and live in Sacramento. John Sr. was not happy leaving his nature walks behind in Florida so I started taking him out to the parkway on Wednesday mornings. He absolutely fell in love with it, and I like to believe that the parkway made his last years much happier. The experience reminded me just how valuable the parkway, and other such natural areas around the world , are to the billions of people who live in urban centers.
Three community-based organizations work exclusively to preserve the American River Parkway and deserve public support. These organizations are:
The Save the American River Association (SARA) was founded in the 1960s to advocate for the American River Parkway. Its mission “is to protect and enhance the wildlife habitat, fishery, and recreational resources of the American River Parkway.”
The American River Parkway Foundation (ARPF) “coordinates programs and works with volunteers to foster environmental stewardship, facilitate volunteer opportunities, as well as fund and implement Parkway projects.”
The American River Natural History Association (ARNHA), “supports educational and interpretive activities in the American River Parkway through operating and funding Effie Yeaw Nature Center, a program that introduces thousands of school children each year to the beauty and diversity of the American River Parkway.”
Each spring, the parkway bursts out in bloom. So my photographs this time will feature flowers of the American River Parkway.
Plants don’t have to be flowering to be attractive, as the following photos demonstrate,