Don’t dump McKinley Park in the sewer

The city’s plans for a sewer “vault” under East Sacramento park won’t solve the real problem

photo courtesy of Kathleen mclean

Kathleen McLean has lived in East Sacramento since 1967.

McKinley Park is an incredible resource to Sacramento. This year, it was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. If one were to take the pulse of the park on any given day in summer, winter, spring or fall, you would find people running, walking, celebrating and playing.

The City Council has chosen to tear up the park’s baseball field and build an underground vault to store as much as 1 million cubic feet of sewer and stormwater overflow. The argument in favor is that it will keep sewage and rainwater from flooding our streets.

The city has designed the $30 million vault for a small 10-year storm, one that has a 10 percent chance of happening in any given year. Yet, the project could still leave between 0.8 inches and 1.2 inches of sewage and stormwater in the streets of East Sacramento.

To build this ineffective vault, much of the park will be turned into a construction zone. Large canopy trees that provide shade and give character to the park will be in jeopardy. The city’s Environmental Impact Report is not consistent in determining how many trees will actually be removed. Since a large segment of the eastern side of the park will be turned into a construction zone, many trees will likely be damaged. There is no written documentation promising that the large canopy trees will be replaced.

The city Youth, Parks & Community Enrichment Department is showing illustrations of the “new” McKinley Park. The plan includes much cement, small crepe myrtle trees and one large covered canopy, such as the one now at the edge of the playground. It seems no one remembers that cement generates heat during our long summer days, whereas trees and earth assist with cooling.

There is an alternative that would actually solve the street flooding problem, but the city will not focus on this solution. Sacramento is one of only two cities in California that still has an antiquated combined sewer system. This means our sewage and rainwater travel together in a single pipe, then split off later for treatment.

Other cities such as Berkeley made the choice to convert their old system to a split system. Through many studies over nearly 45 years, Sacramento has been advised to do the same, but has never had the political will to spend the money and think of the future.

Jeff Harris, the City Council member for the area around McKinley Park, supports continuing a combined system. A split system could have been finished many years ago. Instead Sacramento continues to invest millions of dollars in the antiquated combined system that will ruin a historic park and not solve the problem.

Sacramento again has the opportunity to correct this problem if Harris and Mayor Darrell Steinberg will support change.