Assemblymembers Ken Cooley, Kevin McCarty, Jim Cooper Launch Plan to Address Public Safety and Environmental Destruction on the American River Parkway

For immediate release:

RANCHO CORDOVA – Assemblymembers Ken Cooley (Rancho Cordova), Kevin McCarty (Sacramento) and Jim Cooper (Elk Grove) announced their efforts to address public safety on the American River Parkway after the brutal slaying of 20-year-old Emma Roark.  Local communities and neighboring families have been increasingly riled by the level of violence, dangerous debris and environmental destruction left by illegal campers on the American River Parkway.

Sacramento area representatives have introduced AB 2633, which defines parklands with heightened risk of environmental degradation and damage due to the unique and valuable resources within it, such as the American River Parkway, as “special parklands.”  This bill authorizes the removal of illegal campsites from these parks to prevent unnecessary environmental destruction and addresses public safety hazards.

In addition, they are proposing $50 million in grant funding to go to counties and regional park districts to support efforts to protect the parkway.  Goals of the grant program include 1) preventing fires by reducing the incidents of illegal campfires in regional parks, 2) reducing homelessness by providing services and housing options, and 3) protecting park visitors, wildlife and our natural resources.

“I live almost exactly one mile from this precious location.  For decades, I have brought my own children and grandchildren here to experience and wonder at the world around them. Public safety and environmental protection are paramount to the value of this parkway,” said Assemblyman Ken Cooley.

Severe violence has been committed both against the transient population and by some of its members along the watershed lands oftentimes under the cover of dense vegetation, right alongside homes and trails frequented by vulnerable populations such as children, seniors and individuals travelling alone.

“I’m proud to author AB 2633, along with Assemblymember Ken Cooley, to preserve and protect our cherished American River Parkway,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Sacramento.  “Sadly, because of illegal camping, the American River Parkway isn’t safe enough — resulting in locals thinking twice about visiting our jewel of Sacramento.  We can humanely and aggressively address homelessness and ensure that our Parkway remains a regional treasure.”

With the climate crisis underway, wildfire has been an increasing threat to California. In the Sacramento region, the American River Parkway, which is an urban parkway nestled alongside multiple communities, teeming with wildlife, presents heightened risks and hazards.

Specifically, illegal campfires have caused wildfires that have destroyed hundreds of acres of regional parklands.  In recent years, The American River Parkway has seen incidents of illegal fires, camping, and dumping skyrocket– threatening the parkway’s beauty, sustainability, and the safety of visitors, adjacent communities, schools and businesses. The Sacramento Bee reported that by June 2021, 60+ illegal fires scorched more than 130 acres of this treasured parkway, including newly restored habitat.

Including, last year, after countless hours and thousands of dollars in grants and donations for the restoration of an imperiled turtle habitat, the newly restored habitat burned to ashes. More importantly, strong winds can push campfires through encampments with dense vegetation and fuel, and into adjacent neighborhoods, leaving little time for both campers and residents to flee.

Without intervention and protection, California’s outdoor spaces that serve multiple specialized environmental, public safety and recreational functions, will continue to be at risk of degradation and damage. Protecting the American River Parkway from illegal fires and providing those suffering from homelessness with services and healthier housing options, will ensure its preservation and lead to healthier and safer communities throughout the greater Sacramento area.  The proposed $50 million in grant funding will support all of these goals.

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Contact: Jillena Hernandez, 916-319-2008