River dance

The city of Rancho Cordova’s efforts to secure signatory power in the decision-making process governing the American River Parkway has drawn the ire of the organization that helped create the parkway in the first place. At issue is Senate Bill 1776, legislation drafted on behalf of Rancho Cordova by Senator Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks. If approved, the bill would grant Rancho Cordova signatory power in the parkway planning process, a privilege currently enjoyed by the city of Sacramento, Sacramento County and the Legislature.

Members of the Save the American River Association (SARA) are accusing the recently incorporated city of a last-ditch end run designed to circumvent an arduous process that’s been two years in the making.

“This has irritated a lot of people because they said they weren’t interested initially,” said SARA Vice President Warren Truitt. SARA claims that Rancho Cordova was offered signatory power in 2003, after it incorporated. Rancho Cordova City Councilwoman Linda Budge disputes the claim.

“That is completely inaccurate,” Budge said. “No one has ever said to us, ‘Would you like to be a signatory to this particular plan?'”

“I have to take exception to the people saying the county deliberately excluded Rancho Cordova from this process,” said Betsy Weiland, a volunteer coordinator for SARA who serves as an alternate member of Update Citizen’s Advisory Committee (UCAC). “That is absolutely not true. They have a representative sitting on the committee.” She pointed out that when the update process began in 2003, no one from Rancho Cordova volunteered to be a member of UCAC.

“We wanted to send someone, but no one volunteered from Rancho Cordova,” Budge conceded. The 25-member committee is composed of four Sacramento City Council members, five county supervisors and citizens from other communities along the parkway. Members vote on proposed updates to the plan, but aside from the city of Sacramento and the county, they have no signatory power over the plan’s implementation.

Budge says one reason Rancho Cordova feels left out of the process is that the committee spent the last two years focusing mostly on the parkway’s lower reach, downstream from her city. In December, Rancho Cordova drew up plans for nine separate proposals for its area of the parkway. The proposals were presented to UCAC in February to mixed reaction.

“Ninety percent of what they want to do is compatible [with the parkway’s existing usage]; it’s the 10 percent that’s not compatible that we’re concerned with,” Truitt said. Some of the proposals, such as building a bicycle bridge across the American River, may be incompatible with existing wildlife use. “We need to see more of everything they’re proposing. They want signatory power over something that’s very vague at this point.”

Weiland added that the late arrival of the proposals has complicated a time-consuming process that took two years and was supposed to be completed this month. “The process is like pulling teeth,” she said. “The committee will spend three hours on just two sentences.” She worries that S.B. 1776 could dissolve the cooperation that first established the parkway in 1984. “Rancho Cordova should not be upset because they were asked to abide by a legal document, the parkway plan,” she said.

“We would love to have our process last two years,” Budge said. “Why would you spend two years reviewing 50 percent of the parkway and six months to review the rest?” The sense that the upper reach was being given short shrift prompted Rancho Cordova to seek a remedy from the state, she said, adding that she personally wouldn’t object to seeing the parkway come under the control of a single entity, such as Sacramento County. “If you don’t discuss something, you can’t create a solution,” she said. “The whole point was to get people talking. And it worked, didn’t it?”

—R.V. Scheide