The SARA Board of Directors meets every third Tuesday of the month (except for August) at 7 p.m. at the SARA office (8836 Greenback Lane, Suite C Orangevale, CA 95662). August is generally a board vacation month. In December the SARA Annual Meeting (the first Saturday in December) serves as the SARA board meeting. Members and guests are welcome to attend board meetings.
Save the American River Association, (SARA) is a grass roots organization established in 1961 to spearhead the establishment of the American River Parkway (the "crown jewel" of the Sacramento County Park System) and adoption of the American River Parkway Plan 2008. Our mission is to protect and enhance the wildlife habitat, fishery, and recreational resources of the American River Parkway. Our volunteer, non-profit group of members and Board of Directors work to ensure that the American River Parkway will survive and prosper for the benefit of future generations.
The American River and Parkway
The American River Parkway is the crown jewel of the Sacramento Regional Parks system that is in the care and custody of Sacramento County. The Parkway is an open space greenbelt on both sides of the American River that extends approximately 29 miles from Folsom Dam to the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers. The Lower American River is the 23-mile portion of the Parkway located between Nimbus Dam and the confluence of the two Rivers and has been designated as a Wild and Scenic River by both the State of California and the Federal Government.
What We Do
SARA is the only local volunteer organization with the primary mission of protecting and, when necessary, fighting for the public interest in land and water issues concerning the Lower American River and the Parkway. Some of our achievements and responsibilities include:
Serving as plaintiff (with Sacramento County and the Environmental Defense Fund) in a lawsuit against East Bay Municipal District to prevent their taking American River water except under stipulated conditions. The 17-year legal battle resulted in a landmark decision setting minimum flow standards acceptable for fishery and recreational needs.
American River and Parkway photography by Guy Galante.
Save the American River Association believes that the occurrence of illegal camping in the Parkway would likely be reduced if adequate housing and services were available as an alternative. However, SARA firmly believes that lack of such housing and services does not justify cessation or reduction of efforts to enforce illegal camping ordinances in the Parkway so as to achieve and maintain the community standard embodied in the Parkway Plan. Our community must do both and must not use the Parkway as the proverbial rug under which to sweep the homeless problem.
"I have been walking in the American River Parkway daily for over 10 years and have become so dismayed by what I have been seeing that I chose to make an 8-minute documentary video about it. I hope this video can help spread the word about the degradation of this beautiful space. Please share it if you are inspired and encourage our local leaders to act. We must house the homeless in a clean, safe location so that we can clean up, maintain, and enforce laws in the parkway. These videos were taken over three weekends in November and December of 2019." - Video by Tony Mader
U.S. Supreme Court Allows Boise Decision to Stand
By Stephen Green | Winter-Spring RiverWatch, January 2020
In mid-December, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a major case on homeless campers. Without comment or dissent, the justices let stand a 9th Circuit Court decision from Boise, Idaho, last year which said homeless people have a right to camp or sleep in public places if no other shelter is available to them.
As a result, law enforcement will continue to have few options for removing homeless people from parks and public places unless they are involved in criminal conduct.
The City of Sacramento and Sacramento County were among dozens of municipalities that filed the appeal with the Supreme Court. They argued that the broad nature of the Boise decision made it difficult “to balance the needs of its homeless residents with the needs of everyone who uses public spaces.” Prior to the Boise decision, for example, the City of Sacramento allowed homeless people to camp on the City Hall grounds at night. But they had to leave during the day.
The homeless population in the Sacramento County area now numbers more than 5,500 people and it has been growing. Despite expanded efforts to provide housing and services to homeless people in the area, local officials say there will never been enough resources to serve all who need help.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly noted that many homeless people have drug or alcohol problems, or suffer from mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia or paranoia. “Our homelessness crisis has increasingly become a public health crisis,” the governor said.
Last year, Newsom created a Commission on Homelessness & Supportive Housing to address issues homeless people face. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg heads the commission.
Sacramento has a Pathways to Health and Home program that identifies people who frequently visit emergency services facilities. The staff pairs them with community health workers who help clients schedule medical appointments, get help with addiction and enroll for public aid. They also help them apply for jobs and find housing if it is available.
Twelve other California cities have programs similar to Sacramento’s and they currently receive federal funding. Gov. Newsom has committed the state to help fund the programs.
The camp pictured above (photo taken October 2017 by George Nyberg) is not about people needing a place to rest their heads at night. For the last two years, this camp near the water treatment facility by Sac State has operated as a bicycle chop shop. We look forward to seeing this camp gone now that the County Supervisors have approved an additional 5 million dollars to help augment our numbers of Park Rangers. Please report camps to Sacramento County 311. The Rangers will know where to go to clean up problems and County Parks will continue to collect good, hard data regarding the type and size of illegal campsites on the American River Parkway.
Read SARA's 7/19/17 letter to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg supporting the Mayor's call for “city-county collaboration” to assist the rapidly growing population of homeless people in our region.
Save the American River Association
Save the American River Association (SARA) is a grass roots non-profit organization founded in 1961 to spearhead the establishment of the American River Parkway — the "crown jewel" of the Sacramento County Park System — and adoption of the American River Parkway Plan 2008. Our mission is to protect and enhance the wildlife habitat, fishery, and recreational resources of the American River Parkway. Our volunteer, non-profit group of members and Board of Directors work to ensure that the American River Parkway will survive and prosper for the benefit of future generations.
Current Issues and Activities
- Illegal Camping in the American River Parkway
- Folsom’s proposal for a River District Master Plan
- Why expand Sutter's Landing Park? A video by George Nyberg
- Lower American River Conservancy Program
- Large Concert Events in Discovery Park
- Off-paved Trail Cycling Pilot
- Save Hinkle Creek Nature Area
- Lake Natoma Waterfront and Trail Access Enhancement Project
- SAFCA's Proposed Levee Improvement Assessment
- McKinley Village Project
- Joint Operations Center
- Unsafe levels of E.coli bacteria have been found in Lake Natoma, Folsom Lake and the Lower American River
- Bureau of Reclamation should prioritize protection and propagation of Chinook salmon and steelhead (April 3, 2019)
- California Water News - Department of Water Resources
The water committee continues to meet with the Water Forum regarding outstanding technical issues on the latest proposed flow management standard. At the same time, SARA is still fighting efforts by water districts in the Sierra Nevada foothills to divert American River water and sell it to purveyors outside of the region. Enough water in the river is no help if the water is polluted. We have ongoing battles with the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board over the issuing of sewer discharge permits that violate state and federal law.
SARA continues to work with allied organizations to institute reforms in the way California's water is managed. The ongoing drought has focused attention on the unregulated use of ground water and reservoirs and the historical practice of allocating water that does not exist. We are engaged in raising serious objections to the proposed Delta tunnels as a water management strategy for California's future. LEARN MORE.
Related Environmental Issues
In the News
The Sacramento Bee - May 28, 2020
American River in Sacramento still tainted with feces, despite new parkway bathrooms
By Ryan Sabalow and Theresa Clift
Fish Sniffer - January 13, 2020
Salmon Advocates Respond to Reclamation Plan to Cut Flows on American River
By Dan Bacher
The Sacramento Bee - September 12, 2019
‘What diluted sewage looks like.’ American River in Sacramento tainted with feces
By Ryan Sabalow and Vincent Moleski
Style Magazine - June 2019
Save the American River Association - Preserving the Parkway
By Sharon Penny
Daily Kos - April 3, 2019
Scientist urges Reclamation to reduce pre-spawning salmon mortality on American River this year
By Dan Bacher
Sacramento News & Review - January 23, 2019
Clear-cutting Sacramento’s crown jewel
By Stephen Green
The Sacramento Bee - June 18, 2018
They are building 11,000 new homes in Folsom. But will there be enough water?
The Sacramento Bee - April 18, 2018
Filth at popular beach exceeds regulatory standard, raises health risks for swimmers
By Ed Fletcher
The Sacramento Bee - October 11, 2017
Folsom Lake and Lake Natoma had high E. coli readings. Should the public be warned?
By Brad Branan
The Sacramento Bee - July 8, 2017
Here's how to save the American River Parkway
By Phil Serna - Sacramento County Supervisor
The Sacramento Bee - June 21, 2017
How Sacramento County supervisors blew it on parkway safety
By Stephen Green - Special to The Bee (SARA President)
Central Valley Business Times - January 30, 2017
Environmental groups assail governor’s Delta tunnels