The past two weeks at SLP have been a mixed bag of positives and negatives. I wish the community realized how much effort SLP's volunteers put into keeping the River and Parkway clean, safe, and accessible. Thank you to Catherine, Bea, and Elisa who can always be counted on to make sure the beaches and trails are super clean, and the garbage cans are emptied and lined, each and every Saturday. No matter what, this happens Saturday morning, and it's done by the time visitors arrive in numbers. It's not just trash, either. They check the known sites for hidden camps, they put out still hot and smoking campfires, and haul up whatever makes it way down to the water. Well, we do have to confess that we had to call Mark to come and get the shopping cart out of the River. It went over the bank, and down to the water. Mark always responds to calls for help, and he got the cart up to the dumpster and took its wheels off so it stayed there. Catherine comes back on Sunday morning, and even if its just her sometimes she will manage to clean up, haul full bags of garbage from the garbage cans up to the parking lot dumpster and make sure the cans get relined. Dan comes on Sunday to maintain the Gateway Garden and direct and work on restoration in the Parkway, which at this time is our mighty effort to defeat star thistle in the downriver portion of SLP. Chris, Paul, Kathleen, Dan and Allicia have been key to getting us where we are today. Thank you, Chris, for coming out this past Saturday at 7:00 a.m. to beat the heat and bag some star thistle.
Thank you, Tom, for making a spot check of SLP at 5:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 6th. We knew that the scofflaws had hidden a barbeque in the their cart and were hoping to get away with starting a barbeque. Despite an initial problem with Sheriff's Dispatch, he got Rangers down to the beach to take care of not one barbeque but two! A previous group who had initially taken their barbeque back to their car, somehow managed to sneak it down anyway to the Boat Launch beach. Sheriff's Dispatch is so much improved that this isn't a complaint, but if Tom had been a new volunteer the Ranger service would not have happened. The first Dispatcher insisted that it was a call for the Fire Department, not Rangers. Tom had to hang up and dial again, and the second time was the charm. A different Dispatcher made a call for Ranger service. Confusion also happened on a call for service Saturday on the unacceptable loud music coming from the party boat. The Dispatcher answering the call for Ranger service said that she couldn't forward noise complaints during the day per Sheriff Cooper's orders. We explained that this was Regional Parks under the jurisdiction of Chief Ranger Orman, and we weren't aware of any directives from him regarding noise complaints. She did put in a request for service, and the Rangers responded, handled the problem, as well as others, as they always do. The County Rangers are indispensable to keeping Sutter's Landing from degenerating to its previous state of illegal camps, drunken parties featuring barbeques and boom box competitions (James remembers the time parks staff had to come out, dismantle and haul away a large wooden stage the scofflaws had built to hold a concert on the party beach), special events that drew upwards of 100 people, and general behavior that prevented families and others from using this part of the River and Parkway.
Thank you to Paul who came this past Sunday, in the heat of the afternoon, to walk the entire beach area and habitat trail for trash and problems. He always manages to ferret out stuff, like a large piece of foam mattress hanging up in a tree, and three unopened cans of beer. The foam mattress wasn't such a thrill, but he was happy with the beer. Afternoon help on the weekends is really needed and greatly appreciated, and Paul comes to the rescue.
Its unfortunate, and this is a way understatement, but we believe Young Chris is back. Chris is the homeless man who is either mentally ill, drug addicted, or both, who for the past three years has terrorized SLP. He turns over the garbage cans and scatters trash everywhere, he builds fires with plastic and other trash, and leaves them burning, and he creates "scenes" on the beach with his erratic behavior. We haven't seen him this year but someone, and the SLP "regulars" say its Young Chris, is on the beach with a hatchet and bowie knife, cutting down trees and branches, and scoring many trees with hatchet marks. I stayed at SLP until 9:00 p.m. this past Saturday hoping he would appear - no luck. Yesterday I came at 7:00 a.m. hoping to catch him - no luck. I did find a hot fire on the Boat Launch beach, a small elderberry tree in the Outdoor Classroom area cut down, and there was a lot more evidence of vegetation clearing and cut branches. The destruction is significant, and if whoever cannot be identified and stopped soon, I don't know in what state SLP will be left. Even Ranger Perez noticed the pile of cut branches just off the main trail to the beach. He thought we were doing some kind of maintenance work it was so extensive. We have given some of the more responsible "regulars" Parkway Watch cards and asked them to please call Sheriff's Dispatch for Ranger service if they see Young Chris, or whoever it is.
The Rangers had the busiest weekend ever, I think, at SLP, last weekend. I'll just say that Friday last week at least a couple of people visiting the beach called Sheriff's Dispatch and asked for Ranger service because one of the large party boats was blasting their music. On Saturday, several people reported the incident to us, and, first of all, the noise must have been unbelievable to get members of the public to call, but more importantly, the people that called wanted to know if law enforcement actions were being taken against the party boat miscreants because of the disrespectful stance they took with the Rangers. It was very upsetting to the people who observed the interaction, as visitors to SLP appreciate the Rangers, and are grateful for their presence. Two calls for Ranger service on Saturday were made for noise and a barbeque on the main beach by the same party boat scofflaws. Ranger Sarah successfully contacted two women and a man with three dogs running loose on the Main Beach (these same people had let the largest of the dogs pee in the Gateway Garden, they thought it was funny, and poop on the main trail to the beach), and they left the park a few minutes after she drove away. The Rangers also made contact with a pregnant homeless lady who has been sleeping on the main beach at night for about two weeks. Although she leaves for most of the day, her presence is causing problems as we knew it would. Even though she is quiet and clean, we are now having problems with other homeless people camping, and a first is some of the public is asking if camping is allowed at SLP after observing her. The Rangers asked after her well being and she said she didn't want/need any help as she liked sleeping at SLP because it was peaceful. Thursday, while she was packing her stuff up at 7:30 a.m., I had to ask another homeless lady who had set up her tent and belongings to please dismantle her camp as no overnight camping was allowed in the Parkway. We have also had a couple of men spend the night in the area of the rope swing, and asked them to please not camp overnight.
Sunday night, Ranger Andrew drove through, and had time to check out the beach area for alcohol. There was a lot of beer in glass bottles going down. Although he was not on the beach long, and issued warnings only, it was time well spent. About 10 minutes after he drove away, the two groups that we knew were drinking beer in glass bottles left.
As you know, Dan is leading our next effort to begin the renovation of the failed restoration site. We are tackling this large area in sections to gain experience through trial and error vis a vis controlling the weeds and star thistle, watering the new plants for at least 3 years, etc. Its criminal, yes, it is, that the spectacular elderberry at the base of the bicycle ramp in the restoration site area has turned into a toilet for the illegal campers and maybe others. They have hacked an entrance into the elderberry which makes a private "stall" because it is covered with grapevine. I'll file a 311 Report for the Camps Team to come clean up the waste, and also clean up the waste in the alcove off the Party Beach which is also being used as a handy toilet. I think the remedy to the elderberry, and this may also pertain to the second elderberry a few feet upriver of this one in the restoration site, is to seek a permit from US Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the grapevine and open the elderberry(s) up for visibility. We might have to ask to coppice the bush(s), as it have been so beat up over time. Before becoming a toilet(s) it was also a popular place(s) to camp.
Special thanks to James and Paul, Regional Parks Superintendents, for taking time to walk some problem areas of SLP with me, Mark and Tom this past Monday. We also discussed the placement of our two inaugural doggie waste bag stations. They are ready for installation and not a moment too soon.
I'll stop. This report is becoming entirely too long but there is a lot happening at SLP. Watch for an "all hands on deck" call in the coming weeks for two major projects. One, is to clear some remaining invasive grasses in the restoration site gully to "free up" the extensive stands of creeping wildrye, and spread mulch, and a second urgent project to remove a large patch of very invasive bamboo growing in the vicinity of the railroad bridge. Paul discovered the bamboo on Saturday, and it needs to be taken care of ASAP.
Looking forward to seeing everyone this weekend.
Be well and safe.
Your Parkway Pal, Betsy