Sacramento to take over some American RIver Parkway parking enforcement

Parking enforcement has been spotty lately along the American River Parkway but that's about to change at two popular lots.
Faced with a depleted budget, county parks officials have hired the Sacramento city code enforcement department to install pay parking machines this month in the Howe and Watt avenue parking lots.

City code enforcement officers will patrol those lots to make sure parkway users pay the day-use parking fees. The city and county will divide ticket revenues.

County officials say turning parking enforcement over to the city will allow the county's dwindling group of park rangers to spend more time patrolling, and possibly bring in more money for both local governments.

The program at the Howe and Watt lots is expected to start on a test basis in two weeks, and be fully operational by June 1. The pay machines take cash and credit cards.

If the machine system proves profitable, city and county officials say they may expand the system to parking lots in 16 county parks next year.

The pay kiosks are sturdier versions of the green pay stations on downtown city streets. The city already has had success increasing parking revenue after installing the machines at Miller and Garcia Bend parks along the Sacramento River.

County officials say it is the new way to go.

"We're trying to bring our vehicle entrance fee system into the 20th century," Sacramento County Regional Parks Director Janet Baker said.

Currently, the county uses an honor system in which drivers put money in an envelope and stick the envelope in an "iron ranger" lockbox.

Daily fees are $5 for vehicles, $8 for vehicles with small watercraft, and $10 for vehicles with trailers.

Many park users, however, fail to pay. The county hasn't been able to enforce its parking rules effectively because of cuts to its ranger force.

The county now has 10 rangers, most of them working the American River Parkway. That's down from 25 just three years ago, county officials said.

More ranger jobs may be on the line this month when the Board of Supervisors considers its 2011-12 budget.

Baker said her department is pushing for frequent park users to buy an annual $50 vehicle pass. She also encouraged cyclists, joggers and others who enter county parks on foot to support county parks by buying an annual pass.

"If people who appreciate the parkway and use it would buy an annual pass, it could help solve our budget problem," Baker said.
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