Board of Supervisors Approves Funds for American River Parkway Cleanup

UPDATE: The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors has voted to approve the budget allocations to clean up the American River Parkway, and pay for extra park rangers, maintenance workers and animal control employees. 

SACRAMENTO COUNTY -- The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors are deciding whether to commit as much as $5 million in budget allocations in an effort to cope with the negative impacts caused by the growing homeless population living along the American River Parkway.

From the view provided by Drone40, a homeless camp sits along the American River obscured by trees and brush. But when approached on foot, you really get the full spectrum of the illegal encampment issue.

"Chaos, absolute chaos," said Stephen Green, president of the Save the American River Association.

Green went to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors' meeting to support the clean up. He believes it is long overdue since the Regional Parks Department has been underfunded for many years.

"Homeless people don't recognize boundaries. They are constantly coming through my neighborhood to go to a convenience store. We had a neighborhood that was almost crime free. And today we get break-ins in cars, and home and mail thefts and package thefts," Green said.

The board spent several hours deciding whether to commit between $3 million and $5 million to help pay for extra park rangers, maintenance workers and animal control employees -- all in an effort to clean up the American River Parkway as well as make it safer.

"We need more enforcement officers, we need more clean up, we need more navigators who can help these people get connected with services because many of these people need services badly," Green said.

Some homeless advocates see the proposal as a way of pushing out the homeless into other areas, including neighborhoods.

Mary Jo Weick has been homeless for more than 20 years and lives along the American River. She says she does her part to keep the area clean and wants to stay.

"Whether we're homeless or not, we're out here, and we ain't got nothing else to do. So why not help them out and put a good taste in their mouth," Weick said.

She also said she's noticed a spike in the homeless population and an increase in crime by the river.

"I think they should come here and clean up, but I think they should find a way to make a working relationship with the people who are here," Weick said.

For Green, the clean up proposal is just the first step in trying to solve a big problem.

"It will help, but this is not the end solution. We need a lot more broader initiatives," Green said.

The American River Parkway is an important economic asset to the city, one that no doubt helps define Sacramento.