Issues Affecting the Parkway

You may have questions about the issues affecting the Parkway. See below for information and links to additional related resources.

 

What are the major threats to the Parkway?

FIRES

Fires injure and kill wildlife and destroy vegetation. Vegetation loss results in secondary impacts, such as removing wildlife food sources and shelters, increasing erosion, and altering water and soil conditions.

Firefighting efforts are essential, but emergency heavy equipment use can result in further habitat destruction, impacting sensitive plants and animals in the areas surrounding the fire.

Fires also destroy environmental, recreational, and educational program efforts, such as native plant and habitat restoration, and damage infrastructures.

 

DEGRADATION WILDLIFE HABITAT

The Parkway is home to diverse wildlife, including deer, quail, rabbits, and turtles. Misuse disturbs natural animal shelters, tramples vegetation, disrupts feeding and hunting patterns, introduces contaminants, and reduces access to safe water sources.

 

GARBAGE

Not only is trash unsightly, it transports chemical pollutants and interferes with the river environment. Wildlife often mistakes bits of garbage and plastic debris as food, ingesting toxic fragments.

 

WATER QUALITY

 Human activity has contributed to elevated levels of E. coli bacteria present in the American River, particularly in the lower areas near Discovery Park, Tiscornia Beach, and Howe Avenue River Access.

These waterways are where fish swim, wildlife drinks, and people participate in watersports. The County of Sacramento issued precautions to reduce the risk of human infection.

 

VISITOR HEALTH & SAFETY

 Illegal camping and misuse has coincided with increased concerns of visitors feeling unsafe using the Parkway, particularly along the miles approaching Discovery Park. Reports of assault have led many runners and cyclists to avoid the lower Parkway area.

Safety concerns have reduced Parkway trail use for exercise, recreation, and alternative commute options.

Discarded used hypodermic needles along the Parkway create a serious health risk for park visitors and clean up volunteers.

Additional concerns include other types of garbage and vandalism of bathrooms, tables, and vehicles.

 

How long does it take to restore damaged Parkway habitat?

 Depending on the type of land, damage, and vegetation involved, restoring damaged Parkway areas can take from 3 to 30 years or longer.

For example, after a fire, the primary concern is protecting exposed soil from wind and flood erosion, which can increase river sedimentation and strip soil nutrients for future plants. Initial restoration may begin with planting grasses and shrubs to quickly protect the scorched land. Reintroducing trees can take much longer. For instance, it takes 30 to 40 years for an oak tree to mature.

Are there more fires than usual along the Parkway?

 Sacramento Fire Department data indicates that firefighters responded to 62 fires along the Parkway in 2020, the highest number in a decade, according to an ABC 10 report.

Wildfires have scorched about 10 percent of the 4800 acres along the Parkway so far this year according to our estimation. Most of these fires have been in lower reaches of the Parkway in miles 0-6.

 

What causes the Parkway fires?

 “Ninety-nine percent of the [Parkway] fires are human-caused and done by human activity,” said Capt. Keith Wade with the Sacramento Fire Department in a recent KCRA 3 interview.

As reported in a June 23, 2021 article in The Sacramento Bee, “Camping and open flames are illegal in the parkway outside of designated sites such as picnic areas, but homeless campers regularly smoke, run gasoline-powered generators, build cooking and warming fires, and use charcoal and gas grills and stoves.” Other reported fire risks include arson and the combustion of large piles of decaying garbage.

 

Is camping on the Parkway illegal?

 Camping and open-flame cooking are not permitted in the parkway outside of designated areas. The following ordinances apply to camping on the Parkway:

9.36.050 Failure to Obtain Required Permit

No person shall use, occupy, or otherwise remain in any park facility or portion thereof for which a permit is required without first having obtained such permit. (SCC 36 § 2, 1971.)

9.36.067 Hours of Use

The Director is authorized to promulgate reasonable opening and closing hours for park facilities. No person shall enter, remain in, or camp in or on any park facility during the hours or any part of the hours said facility is closed without a permit from the Director. (SCC 36 § 2, 1971.)

 

Why aren’t illegal campers removed from the Parkway?

 A 2018 federal court ruling prohibit officials from moving campers from public property when sufficient shelter space is unavailable.

 

What can I do if I witness a problem on the parkway?

For emergency situations, call 911.

For Parkway Ranger dispatch, call 916-875-7275.

We recommend that parkway visitors download the Sacramento County 311 app. With this app, you can report non-emergency issues, such as illegal dumping or animal concerns, and include a pin-drop location.

 

Who should I contact regarding issues affecting the parkway?

 The 23-mile Parkway spans three electoral districts, the City of Sacramento, the City of Rancho Cordova, and four Sacramento County Supervisory Districts.

Direct your concerns involving the Parkway to the County of Sacramento, because that agency manages the land. For issues about destruction and impacts of illegal camping, contact your local representative.

City of Sacramento:

City of Rancho Cordova:

County of Sacramento: