Protecting The Parkway
Broadcast veteran advocates for American River
By Jessica Laskey
George Nyberg knows what the American River Parkway means to Sacramento. He can often be found biking, jogging or kayaking along the majestic waterway near his home in Campus Commons.
“The thing that makes the parkway unique is the fish and wildlife, especially the birds,” Nyberg says. “It’s like a zoo without fences. The side channels are loaded with various birds like egrets, herons, cormorants, ducks, geese. But the river otters are my favorite.”
Nyberg moved to Campus Commons 16 years ago. He wanted to be near the parkway where he trained for Eppie’s Great Race and Ironman triathlons. He finished 26 editions of the Eppie’s competition and 20 Ironman events.
Nyberg prefers to get on the river first thing in the morning when animals are feeding so he can get a close look and photograph them in perfect light. He spent more than 40 years in film and video production for TV stations, Aerojet, private clients and nonprofits before retiring eight years ago.
Now his production skills create for a different purpose: as a board member of Save the American River Association, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
SARA was founded in 1961 as a volunteer, grassroots nonprofit to spearhead the establishment of the American River Parkway and advocate for the adoption of the American River Parkway Plan. The plan protects and enhances wildlife habitat, fishery and recreational resources.
Nyberg was introduced to the organization when he decided to make a documentary film about the parkway. He attended a SARA meeting and “one thing led to another,” he says. He’s served on the board for 10 years.
“Our biggest challenge is dealing with the homeless population,” Nyberg says. “Over the years, I’ve seen fewer birds and more campers—they displace animals and destroy the environment. I recently saw two bird species nesting in a tree, but then someone started camping under the tree and the nests are now empty.”
In addition to advocating for ways to keep parkway wildlife safe, Nyberg makes sure the places where humans are allowed remain as clean and functional as possible. He brokered a partnership with Sacramento County’s waste management department to replace 100 damaged and rusting trash barrels along the parkway. Waste management and SARA split the cost and hope to repeat the process every year.
As much as Nyberg enjoys being involved in the nonprofit, he knows SARA must attract the next generation of parkway stewards.
“What we really need is younger people to get involved in the organization,” says Nyberg, noting the group’s average age is “probably over 70.”
Though the younger generation appears less interested in protecting this essential regional asset, Nyberg wants to change that by creating video content about “parkway pioneers” for the SARA webpage. “We need to protect the parkway now so it’s still here in the future,” he says.
For more information, visit sarariverwatch.org.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.