William Land Park is Sacramento’s largest urban park. These 207 acres are a public amenity created for the enjoyment of the public. On any given day you may see cyclists exercising, couples strolling, families picnicking and playing in Fairytale Town, youth sports, and classic cars showing off their shiny restorations. Adding to its appeal, William Land Park is accessible by bicycle, on foot, light rail, bus, and by car using major streets and freeways. As a neighborhood member of the Land Park Community Association, I am proud of our role as steward and advocate for the park so it may remain, in the admittedly archaic phrasing of former mayor William Land himself, “a public park within a suitable distance of Sacramento to be used as a recreation spot for the children and a pleasure ground for the poor.”
The family aspect of the park does not end at the park boundaries, though. Children living within Land Park and its surrounding neighborhoods attend schools just a few blocks away at Crocker Elementary on Riverside Boulevard, California Middle School on Land Park Drive, and McClatchy High School on Freeport. Additionally, the public Sacramento City College serves around 20,000 students annually. Expanding upon its namesake’s intent, Land Park is a haven for Sacramento’s young people.
Unfortunately, the streets surrounding are the opposite of family-oriented. Land Park Drive itself is 68’ wide, a long distance to cross for a child or mobility-challenged pedestrian. There are also few controlled intersections which, in addition to wide lanes, encourage fast and reckless driving. Seven major crashes have occurred at Land Park Drive intersections since December 2022. The most recent crashes include a broadside collision on June 19 which caused a vehicle to roll over multiple times, landing adjacent to California Middle School; an April 23rd broadside at 2nd Avenue where a vehicle veered across the bike lane, sidewalk, and several front yards; and a broadside collision on July 21 at 11th Avenue where homes have been repeatedly struck by out-of-control vehicles. Security camera footage from neighboring homes reveals the near misses and reckless driving that fuel the problem.
What about enforcement? Sacramento, like all cities, has limited law enforcement and traffic court resources. While it may be difficult to control drivers given this limitation, we can control the roads. The City can conduct traffic studies and fix unsafe road conditions. Federal agencies like the Federal Highway Administration will conduct studies free of charge, make recommendations, and unlock federal funds.
Yet the Department of Public Works remains in denial. Residents presented 500 signatures to support the cause in 2022. Nothing. Perhaps they will respond to the then-12-year-old cyclist whose life was permanently altered when she was struck at the intersection of Sutterville and Mead, an intersection students use to attend McClatchy and California Middle School, located near the cyclist-friendly Del Rio Trail being constructed? Still, no response.
In February 2014, a 66-year-old woman died in a collision at Swanston Drive and Riverside Blvd., about one block north of Crocker Elementary and a few blocks north of William Land Park. In 2017, the City of Sacramento adopted Vision Zero, a pledge to “work collaboratively in a data-driven effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries.” In September 2021 a motorcyclist died in a collision with a pickup truck at this same intersection. The City has repeatedly failed to live up to their pledge, being neither collaborative nor data driven. As a result, fatalities and severe injuries have nearly doubled between 2016 and 2021 within Sacramento. California’s Office of Traffic Safety ranked Sacramento the least safe city in the state in 2020, the most recent year published.
William Land Park belongs to everybody. Whether you play sports, worship nearby, attend school, or just otherwise love nature, the park, as decreed by William Land himself, was created for you. The Department of Public Works promised us safe streets. Let’s bring them to the table and make your memories of Land Park safe and happy ones.
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Mathew Malkin is a Land Park resident, member of the Land Park Community Association Traffic Safety Committee and member of Upper Land Park Neighbors.
Matthew and the LPCATSC will speak at the upcoming September 7th community meeting. The community is welcome to attend and learn more.