Or should it be an old name for a new place? Friends of Sutter’s Landing Park formed years ago to support a special place along the river near our neighborhood. The place has been a second home and place to get outside and enjoy nature while leaving behind the daily stresses that come with living.
The stretch of river was occupied for thousands of years and has no doubt been known by many names that recognize the places and events experienced by its inhabitants. Unfortunately, much of that early history has been forgotten as a result of the disruption and destruction of that way of life.
Now, we have the “American” River passing through various cities, towns, and open space before joining the “Sacramento” River named for the city that grew there. Much of the recent history and naming we have now are based on the actions and events of those that came here in relatively recent times in search of a new life, leaving behind families and familiar places, persecution, debt and whatever else motivated them. Giving places new names including personal acknowledgment that recognize deeds and establish ownership and control is a long standing practice. Right?
The discovery of gold nearby accelerated the rush west and greatly changed the area. Much harm was done to the indigenous peoples that inhabited the region and elsewhere during that period. The area of river we spend our available time at now became a landfill after the river itself was pushed northward to stabilize the central city of Sacramento. The landfill and displaced river had little remaining signs or acknowledgement of the times and peoples before. Old names and places were forgotten like the people that had lived there.
Eventually Sacramento became aware that its continued growth couldn’t include expanding a landfill that was creeping and seeping into the river. New landfills were established further from home and growing mounds of trash and other waste was hauled, burned and buried there. Meanwhile, the former landfill had to be stabilized and cleaned up to avoid pollution. The art and science of restoring a landfill is a slow process involving capping it to control seepage and erosion along with stabilizing the surface. That process is well underway but likely has several decades before recovery will include re-establishment of deep rooted trees and other vegetation as well as any development that involves subsurface disturbance. Much remains to be decided about how to restore and preserve the area for appropriate uses.
The city of Sacramento first identified the landfill as a future regional park in 1984. In 1989 it was named “Sutter’s Landing Park” by the city council. With limited activities possible and the area largely forgotten by many, city leaders had renamed the area for a famous/infamous person from that gold rush era. John Sutter did much that led to the establishment of this area as well as cruelty to its original inhabitants and destruction of their culture and heritage. His brutal actions are well documented but have been overlooked by many. His name is found on many locations, businesses and services throughout the area. That status is finally being challenged now.
That brings us back to the nearby river location that some neighbors gathered to support, preserve and restore closer to its original natural state. Having such a place close to home has been invaluable for education, environment, nature, recreation and wildlife. The potential remains to enhance those values by adding parcels and removing infrastructure in favor of habitat restoration, environmental education and recreation opportunities. We look forward to helping guide that process and returning some of the original values and services for future generations. These efforts must include Traditional ecological knowledge including traditional resource management and tribal beneficial uses. We also look forward to returning previous names, cultural practices and values and acknowledgment of those that were here before us. Meanwhile, FOSL could stand for “Friends of Sacramento’s Landfill” regional park.
Pages from FOSL's "Pretty Book
Plaque at SE corner of Stanford Park C & 28th Streets at approximate landing location before river relocation