American River Parkway Foundation Responds to the Low Data Present in the Latest Point in Time Count

Locations chosen for counting do not reveal the whole crisis on the American River Parkway 

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The latest data from the Point in Time Count (PIT Count) does not show the true picture of the homelessness crisis on the American River Parkway (Parkway), according to the American River Parkway Foundation (Parkway Foundation). Seven sites on the Parkway were surveyed, resulting in only 594 illegal campers being included in the PIT Count. All of those were along the portion of the Parkway that runs through the City of Sacramento. 

 

“The American River Parkway is ground zero for the homelessness crisis in Sacramento County. Even such a small sample size shows the large percentage of unhoused individuals that are illegally camping in the Parkway,” said Dustin Luton, president of the Parkway Foundation Board of Directors. “Imagine what the count would have showed if the whole Parkway had been included.” 

 

The Parkway stretches 23 miles from the confluence with the Sacramento River up to the Nimbus Dam. Less than 10 miles of the Parkway runs through the City of Sacramento. 

 

Impacts of illegal camping on the Parkway are evident by the number of fires that have occurred near encampments this year, including the 22-acre fire near Campus Commons, the 5-acre fire that threatened homes in Carmichael, another 5-acre fire that threatened homes near Guy West Bridge and, just yesterday, a 16-acre fire in River Bend Park. Other environmental impacts include soil compaction, environmental pollution and disturbance of wildlife habitat. 

 

“Thanks to the efforts of volunteers that are on the Parkway on a regular basis, including our Mile Stewards, we have been able to track the illegal camp sites on the Parkway and determine the areas of high concentration,” said Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the Parkway Foundation. “We recognize the difficulty that can be present with gathering enough volunteers for an effort like the Point in Time Count. We want to bring awareness to the fact that this issue is much greater than these numbers show, which is why it’s important our leaders take action now.” 

 

The Parkway Foundation formed the Voice of the Parkway Coalition to help Sacramento County address the homelessness crisis. This includes working with business leaders – like Five Star Bank – to help find land for shelters. The Voice of the Parkway Coalition also mobilizes concerned community members to urge local leaders and municipal employees to develop an overall homeless plan that includes social services and clear goals and timelines.  

 

More details about the Voice of the Parkway Coalition can be found at www.ARPF.org/VoiceOfTheParkway. 

 

About the American River Parkway Foundation 

The American River Parkway Foundation (Parkway Foundation) is the only nonprofit organization focused on active conservation of all 23 miles of the American River Parkway (Parkway). Through managing programs like volunteer clean-ups, infrastructure improvements, trail maintenance, fire mitigation and education, the Parkway Foundation leads and inspires the community to conserve and nurture the Parkway as a unique, accessible resource for everyone to enjoy. Learn more at www.ARPF.org. 

 

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Coyotes on the American River Parkway: Things to Know

Coyotes are common along the full 23-mile stretch of the American River Parkway. Here are a few things you need to know when it comes to interacting with them:

  • Though you may see a coyote at any time of the day, they are most active at dawn and dusk. If you do see one, do not approach it and enjoy it from a distance.
  • Coyotes are naturally curious and may follow or observe you from a distance. If a coyote gets too close, DO NOT RUN. Face the coyote and maintain eye contact. If a coyote gets aggressive, make loud noises and wave your arms. If this doesn’t work, throw rocks or sticks.
  • Most encounters with coyotes result from the presence of a pet dog. This can be because the coyote sees the dog as potential competition, or – in the case of smaller dogs – as a food source. This is one reason why it is important to keep your dog on a leash at all times while on the Parkway.
  • Keep small children and pets close if you see a coyote and do not leave them unattended while in coyote territory.
  • January through March is coyote mating season. You may see coyotes exhibit more territorial behavior during this time.
  • A coyote may “escort” your dog away from den/territory, food or pups during pup rearing season (Spring and Summer). It may also bluff charge your dog if it gets too close.
  • If a coyote is aggressive, report the incident to Park Rangers by calling 3-1-1.

Learn more about coyotes and how you can help keep them wild from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

American River Parkway Foundation Bicycle Jersey

Did you know the American River Parkway Foundation has a bicycle jersey?

 

 

Regular price is $99, but the Parkway Foundation arranged for a special price of $79!

JERSEY DETAILS:

• Comfortable fit for every rider
• Full length hidden YKK zipper
• 3 rear cargo pockets
• Additional zippered pocket for valuables
• Elastic waistband with silicon gripper
• Reflective piping for visibility
• Men’s & Women’s sizing (XXS-5XL)
• Youth version also available (8-14)

Click here to check it our and order yours

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Bikes. Beer. BBQ.

What better way to have fun and support Sacramento’s uniquely remarkable urban park?

On Saturday, September 25, 2021 ride your bicycle along the beautiful American River Parkway, then party with us at William B. Pond Park with tasty barbecue, refreshing beer, and live music. Your registration fee includes support for your ride with rest stops along three route options, festival entry, lunch, beverages, and one drawing ticket for a chance to win awesome prizes!

Additional prize drawing tickets will be available for purchase during the event. Cash only!

Featuring live music from Rod Stinson Band and catering by Rossi Catering.

 

The Route

Want to bring the kids along? Or, maybe you’d like to skip the ride and just join us for the food and fun? We have options for you!

We offer multiple options for cyclists of any ability. Choose from three suggested routes, ranging from 5 miles to 26 miles, or challenge yourself by riding the entire paved Jedediah Smith Memorial bike trail. All three event routes start and finish at the William B. Pond recreational area and are supported with rest stops along the way.

Cruiser Route — 5 miles
Depart at 9:00 am. Ride upstream and turn around at Hagan Park.

Fixie Route — 12 miles
Depart at 8:00 am. Ride downstream and turn around at Guy West Bridge.

Roadie Route — 26+ miles
Depart at 7:00 am. Ride downstream and turn around at Discovery Park. Optional add-on: Ride upstream and turn around at Nimbus Fish Hatchery.

Rest Stop Hours:

Discovery Park
7:30 am to 10:30 am

Guy West Bridge
8:00 am to 11:30 am

Upper Sunrise
8:30 am to 12:00 pm

Team Challenge

Are you a member of a cycling team or club? Include your team name with your registration to compete for our annual Ride the Parkway team prize for most riders!

Be sure all teammates enter the same team name to be included in the count

 

Party Details

Post-ride festivities begin at 11:00 am at William B. Pond Park recreational area.

A delicious barbecue lunch will be provided by Rossi Catering (vegetarian options will be available), along with beer sponsored by local breweries, while you enjoy live music by the Rod Simpson Band.

Plus, your drawing ticket will give you a chance to win cool prizes from local restaurants, breweries, cycle shops, and more. Additional tickets available for purchase during the event. Cash only!

Bring your lawn chair or picnic blanket!

 

Our NEW Ride the Parkway bike jerseys are now available to order!

Orders from our jersey vendor Jakroo typically take about two weeks from online purchase to product delivery, so be sure to place your order in advance of the Ride the Parkway event.

We recommend placing your order by September 1st to make sure you have your jersey in time for the Ride the Parkway event.

$79 each

ARPF arranged a discounted “team” price of $79 per jersey. (Regular retail price for the Jakroo FONDO jersey style is $99.)

JERSEY DETAILS:

• Comfortable fit for every rider
• Full length hidden YKK zipper
• 3 rear cargo pockets
• Additional zippered pocket for valuables
• Elastic waistband with silicon gripper
• Reflective piping for visibility
• Men’s & Women’s sizing (XXS-5XL)
• Youth version also available (8-14)

 

A big thank you to our Ride the Parkway event sponsors:

The American River Parkway Foundation e-newsletter is a monthly publication.

Click here to sign up!

volunteers pulling and bagging stinkwort

Stopping the Stinkwort Invasion

Despite its dainty foliage, stinkwort (Dittrichia graveolens) spells big trouble on the American River Parkway.

Native to southern Europe, stinkwort was first observed in the Sacramento region in 2002, thought to have been introduced by seeds in landfill soil. This spunky plant thrives in hot, dry weather and soils that are gravelly, saline, or even contaminated with heavy metal. The fast-growing annual can be found in grasslands, but also performs well in areas where the ground is disturbed or nearly bare, such as fire breaks and along the edges of highways, roads, and trails.

Stinkwort gets its name from the camphor-like smell of its sticky, resinous foliage. The annual plant germinates in the winter, remaining small until spring when it grows rapidly into a three-foot tall, upright shrub.

Invading Spaces

stinkwort weed growing along roadway, person pulling plant

removing stinkwort along a roadway

An invasive plant like stinkwort can dominate an ecosystem by out-competing native food plants. Being non-native, it provides no benefit to Parkway animals and insects and lacks natural limitations on its growth. It crowds out native plant species by overtaking resources, such as sunlight, nutrients, and water, disrupting an already fragile habitat.

Stinkwort also contains  phytotoxins that inhibit the growth of surrounding vegetation, giving it a greater advantage over other plants.

Parkway wildlife species are dependent upon native plants for food and shelters, and some plant-eaters create important food sources for other species. For instance, insects that feed on a specific native plant may be an essential protein source for frogs, lizards, and birds. The decline of the native plant harms the insects, and the decline of the insects then harms the other animals, rippling throughout the food chain.

 

 

A Seedy Battle

stinkwort seeds

stinkwort seeds, photo credit: Country Mouse

A member of the sunflower family, stinkwort blooms in September, when other plants are already dormant or have gone to seed. Its small, yellow flowers produce highly transportable, dandelion-like seeds that are easily moved by water and wind. They also travel by gripping a variety of surfaces, including animal fur, human clothing, and vehicle or bicycle tires.

According to USDA reports, a single stinkwort plant can produce an estimated 70,000 tiny, highly transportable seeds known to move over 200 meters in the air — about two football-field lengths. This means that removal efforts must be diligently repeated until the bank of fallen seeds around the original plant has been depleted, and surrounding land must be regularly monitored for new areas of growth.

Fortunately, stinkwort seeds have a short life in soil, remaining viable for only two to three years.

 

Easy to Pull, Difficult to Contain

removing stinkwort with hand trowel

removing stinkwort with hand trowel

Stinkwort is known to defy most control methods, even returning rapidly after wildfire. Hand-pulling has proven to be the most reliable way to remove the weed. It has a relatively short root system, making it easy to pull out, especially after a rain.

However, if part of the plant remains, it can quickly regrow. Yet another challenge is that stinkwort seeds can ripen on pulled or cut plants if they have already flowered. Extracted plants must be securely bagged if they have any flowers or buds to avoid spreading seeds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tricky to Identify

stinkwort with small yellow flower

stinkwort with flower buds

Removing stinkwort from the Parkway habitat begins with accurately identifying the plants, which isn’t as simple as it may sound. Our Invasive Plant Management Program (IPMP) volunteers are trained to distinguish this invasive plant from important native plants that look incredibly similar.

 

 

 

 

tarweed yellow flowers

tarweed flowers, photo credit: The Amateur Anthecologist

One such beneficial plant is tarweed (Madia elegans). Like stinkwort, tarweed is also an annual shrub with sticky, aromatic foliage, small yellow flowers, and tiny seeds that easily parachute. It is also a late-bloomer and thrives in full sun, low water conditions, and the unwelcoming, hard-packed soil along roadsides.

Unlike stinkwort, tarweed is a native plant. The seeds of tarweed are eaten by many birds and small mammals, such as mourning doves, quail, mice, and ground squirrels. Blooming through the fall, tarweed is an important late-season nectar source for butterflies and pollen source for bees.

 

 

 

 

Dangerous Encounters

pulled stinkwort plant

pulled stinkwort plant

The hazards of stinkwort warrant special handling by volunteers and extend beyond the Parkway ecosystem. The plants also are known to cause allergic reactions and severe dermatitis in some people who come in contact with the sticky resin, so we provide our volunteers with protective gloves to wear while pulling and bagging the weeds.

Dogs that walk through dense patches of stinkwort have been known to vomit, reportedly from ingesting or inhaling the bristles, according to some studies.

Oils in the plant have been known to taint the flavor of meat and milk of animals that have consumed the plants. Sadly, stinkwort seeds can kill grazing livestock, such as sheep and horses. Barbs on the fluffy-tipped seeds reportedly damage the animals’ digestive systems. 

 

 

 

 

Join the Effort

Because stinkwort is relatively new to the region, we may still have time to effectively eradicate it from the Parkway with vigilant efforts.

Invasive plant management is an essential part of conserving and nurturing the American River Parkway. Stinkwort is one of several invasive plant varieties that compromise the Parkway ecosystem and are managed by ARPF and our team of trained volunteers.

You can get involved by signing up for volunteer training or by making a donation to our Invasive Plant Management Program.

close up of yellow Spanish Broom flowers, blue sky in background

Putting the Squeeze on Spanish Broom

Spanish broom (Spartium juniceum) is a beautiful, hearty shrub with elegant yellow flowers.  It is a fast-growing  variety of the pea family, growing up to 10-15 feet tall in just a few years with roots that can extend several feet below the surface, even through rocky soil conditions.

It was introduced to California in 1848 as durable landscape ornamental because of its draught-tolerant properties and ability to root in less than ideal soil. By the late 1930s, Spanish broom was planted along mountain highways to prevent erosion.

So, why the fuss over such a pretty, practical plant?

Originating in the southern Mediterranean region of Europe, Spanish broom is an invasive, non-native plant that has no natural local predators and provides no benefit to native insects and animals. With nothing to keep it in check, Spanish broom quickly overtakes resources — sunlight, nutrients, and water — needed by native plants, which are needed  by area wildlife.

Because it can grow in tall, dense patches and produce substantial dry matter, Spanish broom can also create a serious fire hazard during the dry season.

How is Spanish broom removed?

Removing Spanish broom isn’t easy, and must include pulling out the entire root system to deter it growing back stronger. It also involves specific training and diligent repetition.

Even if the whole plant and root system are removed, seeds are a factor. One plant can produce 7,000 to 10,000 seeds in one season, and the seeds can remain viable for decades. A large seed bank is likely present in the soil around any mature Spanish broom plant. Seeds can also be moved to new locations by erosion, rain wash, and possibly ants.

Parkway areas where Spanish broom has been removed in the past are likely to have new plants sprout for years to come, and the plant can also establish itself in new locations. Restoring the natural habitat is a slow process that requires regular monitoring and proper removal of Spanish broom on an ongoing basis.

Identification
Spanish broom twig with orange ribbon tag

Spanish broom plant identified and tagged.

The first step with Spanish broom removal is accurately identifying the plants. When in bloom, the plants are more visible with their bright yellow flowers. However, after the plants have dropped their leaves, this becomes more difficult. Trained volunteers may need to scout and tag the shrubs for later removal during an Invasive Plant Management Program (IPMP) group event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Equipment
two orange weed wrench tools

Weed wrench tools.

Because the root system is strong and must be removed completely, Spanish broom extraction requires special equipment, including a weed wrench designed to grip the base of the plant and gradually employ leverage to lift it out. This industrial tool costs about $250 each.

Other useful tools are trowels and pickaxes to help loosen surrounding soil and dislodge rocks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extraction Process
pulled Spanish broom root

Spanish broom root system.

Ideally, the weed wrench removes the whole plant, roots and all. Extraction tends to be more difficult during a draught season and easier after a good rain. According to long-term ARPF IPMP volunteer Dennis Eckhart, an established Spanish broom plant in challenging conditions can take as long as 30 minutes to remove properly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

weed wrench close up with plant

Weed wrench in action.

In reality, this process is not only labor-intensive, it requires finesse to avoid breaking or shredding the plant stem. When seed pods are present, they must be collected before extracting the plant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

broken Spanish broom stem

Broken Spanish broom stem

If the plant stem does break, creative problem-solving is important. Broken root systems can grow back even stronger than before, making it more difficult to remove them next year. Volunteers must dig down around the root, remove rocks, twigs, and vines, and attempt new approach angles — all while trying to minimize disruption to the surrounding natural habitat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Invasive plant management is an essential part of conserving and nurturing the American River Parkway. Spanish broom is one of several invasive plant varieties that compromise the Parkway ecosystem and are managed by the American River Parkway Foundation and our team of trained volunteers.

You can get involved by signing up for volunteer training or making a donation to our Invasive Plant Management Program.

Stories from the Parkway: “I feel that I am home”

Thousands of people visit the Parkway each year to run, bike, paddle, and enjoy. We’d like to share a few of their stories with you.

Our next story is from Katie Bauer –

I’ve lived in a lot of places in the Sacramento region, and recently returned here after living abroad for a time. Like many people of my generation, my family members are scattered far and wide, and I’ve moved from place to place for jobs, relationships, or school; despite making frequent trips “home” to another part of the state where I grew up and where my parents have lived for many years, I’ve always had trouble in answering the question “Where are you from?” It has only been in recent years when I’ve begun making regular visits to the American River that I’ve begun to develop what many call a “sense of place.”

While living in other parts of the world, no matter how beautiful, I began to develop a deep homesickness, though it took me a while to understand what exactly it was that I was missing. Where was this “home” I felt lonesome for? When I returned to a favorite walking spot along the river for the first time after a long absence, it suddenly struck me: the landscape of this place had become so familiar and comforting to me that being away from it was what caused the ache. I missed oak woodlands with their golden-dry hills in the fall, tall stands of cottonwood with their drifting fluff suspended in the air, and the winter fog settling low like thick wool over the river. I missed the way the land looked and felt, and I missed gazing a long way downriver to where the water has bent the land and vanishes around the turn.

The access to the natural spaces along the river through the Parkway is something I feel more grateful for every year. As a parent it offers fascinating places for me to take my eight-year-old son for walks, leading to hours of unplugged playtime and outdoor learning – you might find us photographing caterpillars or examining oak galls, skipping rocks or hunting for the prettiest shades of wildflowers growing along the trails. It brings tears to my eyes every time my son squeals with joy at seeing a salmon splash through the riffles on its own journey home, or when his voice instinctively lowers in hushed awe when we spot a doe and her baby resting in the tall summer grasses. It’s so important to me that children grow to know a place deeply enough to want to protect and preserve it, and I can’t imagine a better place to help my son develop this crucial wonder and respect for the land.

Amongst our community of friends, the river has become a place we are drawn to for marking important occasions like birthdays or graduations; more often it’s just where we go when we want to be together. It’s also where we gather with loved ones when things are just plain hard or the world seems not to make sense: does the water flowing by carry away some of our pain, or does it only seem that way? There’s something about taking note of the matter-of-factness of nature, no matter how harsh it may seem at times, which never fails to set my mind at peace: the woodpeckers are busily storing their acorns, the egret patiently stalks in the shallows, the mushrooms peek out of the duff, and the salmon are going home. And I feel that I am home, too.

All photos by Katie Bauer

Katie Bauer is an educator with a passion for all-things-science, a photography enthusiast, and is happiest when hiking or baking. She has lived in Chile, Colombia, and all over California, but has felt most “at home” in Sacramento since arriving in the area in 2001. Find her on Instagram: @aftermyown_heart.

Sunset Kayak on the American River

Stories from the Parkway: “Paddling down the river never ceases to amaze me”

Thousands of people visit the Parkway each year to run, bike, paddle, and enjoy. We’d like to share a few of their stories with you.

Our next story is from Nick Carlson –

Sliding my kayak gently into the water, it’s not hard to grasp why in a few short years how this river has become so significant to me. I’ve come to know this river’s fickle moods. Its high water winters and early spring rush, its summertime playfulness, and its autumn bounty when the native Chinook salmon swim back upstream to spawn. I’ve paddled its slumberous wide curves and through its fast water rapids. I’ve watched its water roaring like thunder pouring its last dam and followed its a clear and bright emerald ribbon of water all the way to its end to dip my bow in at its milky confluence.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” I heartily agree. For me and many others, Northern California’s Lower American River is a rare jewel to behold. Fed by the melting snowpack of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the river is an essential source for the area’s drinking water, a productive provider of irrigation and hydroelectric power, and recreational highway for paddlers and fishermen. In its final twenty-some miles before pouring into the Sacramento River, it dispenses a peaceful serenity and magic to every creature along its wild banks despite being so near urban complexities of the city. And yes, to a certain extent it seems to be a living being in itself.

I often tell people paddling with me that after we push off onto the river they will be experiencing a totally different world even though we are in the heart of a densely populated urban area. Paddling down the river never ceases to amaze me of how I can escape into a backyard of nature just a few minutes from the buzz of city traffic. Where the only sound you will hear is that of birds, the wind and that primeval summons to our primordial values, the call of distant rapids coming from downriver.

As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “He who hears the rippling of rivers in these degenerate days will not utterly despair.”

“A river seems a magic thing,” declared photographer Laura Gilpin, “A magic, moving, living part of the very earth itself.”

Sitting alongside the Lower American River earlier this week, the river does seem alive as it moved steadily to the sea. Flashes of Chinook salmon among the river’s ripples, scores of gulls, ducks and turkey vultures soar and flutter above, while I catch sight of black-tailed deer bounding through the stream. A large beaver tail splash serves as a warning that I’ve come a just bit to close to his domain while chattering otters bark at my passing. The trees, vegetation, and even the rocky pilings that extend all the way along the stream add to the inspirit to this living essence.

It’s nature’s age-old symbiotic relationships between the river and all of its creatures. As long as the water keeps flowing, the river and the life it nurtures will continue to exist.

As humans in the era of climate change, we need to recognize this natural world around us and make our duty to care for it, protect it, and pass it on to generations to come

Nick Carlson is a California based kayaking photographer and river guide. A storyteller and amateur theologian, he writes the weekly blog Outside Adventure to the Max where he shares about his journey and paddling & water issues.

Stories from the Parkway: “The deer was my most favorite part”

In previous editions of Stories from the Parkway, we’ve seen the Parkway from the perspective of an adult. Our next story is from the experiences of children.

The children explain why the Parkway is so important to our community and what everyone can experience on the Parkway.

Jasmine

“I like the Parkway because I like to ride my bike and see the river. I like the otters. I like everything.”
Lucy, Age 4

Mira, Age 8

Damion

Kalia, Age 6

Ibrahim

Elizabeth

KJ, Age 8

These children are some of the millions of visits that occur on the American River Parkway each year. Help us continue to conserve this Sacramento treasure so our community and future generations can have the opportunity to make their own memories here. Become a member or donate today.

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