SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Volunteers took to the American River Parkway Saturday morning cleaning up trash and other debris dumped around multiple homeless encampments.
Dianna Poggetto, the executive director of American River Parkway Foundation was among the volunteers.
“We are so fortunate to have this 4,800-acre, 23-mile waterway in the middle of our urban core that we can ride bikes on, we can kayak, we can horseback ride, all of these things as well as have family picnics, that we don’t want to see that go away,” Poggetto explained.
During the clean-up, Poggetto picked up a used syringe and dropped it into a plastic container.
“So, I’m carrying that, so nobody gets stuck,” Poggetto said.
Many volunteers who participated in the effort were told to be careful of needles that have been discarded and keep their distance from dogs near the camps to stay safe.
Clean-up organizers also warned of poison oak in the area.
The 15-year-old founder of the UNITE! charity, Soraya Johnson, told FOX40 it was important for her to volunteer at the parkway Saturday morning doing essential cleanup despite some of the dangers.
“Well there’s definitely difficulties and things a little scary a little bit,” Johnson said. “These are people that have to live in these situations all day long, all their lives. So, I think it’s important to accept those risks. Just be careful and help our community as much as we can.”
“This highlights, obviously, the accumulation of trash and we need to provide a clean-up, but also safety and other elements, just sanitation in general,” added Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli.
Clean-up organizers said safety is a huge goal considering the 4-5 million visitors to the parkway annually.
Just last month, a young woman was found in a secluded river access area in Rancho Cordova after being sexually assaulted and murdered.
“There’s multiple efforts ongoing to work with folks who are in the encampments to try to bring social services, help them find housing. And to maintain safety for users of the parkway, but also, obviously, for folks who have taken up camps here,” Nottoli said.
Fire officials said many fires that start in homeless encampments have put lives and property in jeopardy.
“Last year, we had over 150 fires along this parkway area for the city of Sacramento Fire Department response. And so, anything we can do to help mitigate that and to promote safety throughout the parkway, is a plus for us,” said Sacramento Fire Department Fire Marshal Jason Lee.