We all know and love the American River Parkway. The Parkway runs from from Discovery Park to Hazel, where it connects with Folsom Lake State Recreation Area at Nimbus Dam/Lake Natoma and beyond. The 23 mile-long segment of the Lower American River from the Sacramento River confluence to Hazel is our region's recreational masterpiece - 4800 acres of trails, wildlife habitat and scenic beauty that get over 8 million visitors each year. It is also a significant benefit for the local economy in terms of tourism, property values and recreational sales (like kayaks, running shoes, bicycles, cameras and fishing gear). On our side of the river, Arden Arcade holds about 4 miles of the Parkway, easily accessed on the stretch between Cal Expo and Harrington.
Operating and maintaining the Parkway is at the far end of the food chain that is the County budget, though. For one thing, as part of the county's recreation budget, it is percieved as a "nice-to-have" item. For another, its land development restrictions haven't exactly endeared it to local developers, meaning it automatically gets low priority from the Supervisors. And, thanks to homelessness, it has increasingly become a drain on the Sheriff's budget. The County relies on user fees to pay for the Parkway's O&M, with helpful supplements of donations to the American River Parkway Foundation. Most recently, the state established the Lower American River Parkway Conservancy as a means of steering money to the Parkway. Still, the costs have been going up and the County has had a hard time keeping up. So now the County has proposed a 60% increase in the fees it collects from Parkway users.
That's right, 60%. This whooper of an increase is proposed for the County's budget for fiscal year 2021-2022. The budget has many factors, generally obscurred behind a curtain of confusing numbers, inaccessible meetings and insider information. Public input is typically rendered useless by short notice and programmatic gobbletygook. Fortunately for those of us in the public who are intended to be kept at arm's length from the process, the American River Parkway Foundation has put out an urgent cry for help, saying:
"A significant increase to American River Parkway fees has been proposed.American Parkway Foundation, alert sent to its website newsletter subscribers on June 8, 2021
Last week, the County of Sacramento Department of Regional Parks released an updated 2021 Fee Schedule. The proposed fee schedule includes significant fee increases, many of which directly impact users of the American River Parkway and other regional parks. The majority of revised fees that are relevant to the Parkway are scheduled to increase by approximately 60 percent. We recommend that all Parkway supporters take the opportunity to comment on the proposed fee increases. Email your remarks directly to email@example.com by June 30, 2021 or provide public comment during the Sacramento County Recreation and Parks Commission meeting at 6:30 pm on June 24, 2021".