At Spano Park in North Fresno, overlooking the San Joaquin River, Paying Her gazed at the open space below, as she recalled how difficult it’s been to access the river with her family.
“We usually access it through parking at that particular glass building,” she said, pointing to a nearby office complex. “And then walking down, which is very rough, especially for me, as I do have young kids,” she said.
Her is a program manager at FIRM and a supporter of AB 559. The bill is aimed at expanding public access to the San Joaquin River Parkway. It would make changes to the San Joaquin River Conservancy, the governing board that’s been tasked with managing and developing the San Joaquin River Parkway for nearly 30 years.
Sandra Celedon, president and CEO of Building Healthy Communities spoke at a news conference about AB 559 at Spano Park Tuesday, along with other community organizations and advocates. She said the board doesn’t reflect the communities it serves.
“There's a huge disconnect in our community, between not only who has access to spaces like the San Joaquin River, but also who makes those decisions,” she said.
Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula introduced AB 559. He said access to the San Joaquin River is a matter of equity.
“For too many of our communities of color, they just don't even know that we have a gem of a river right here in our backyard. For too many in our community, they haven't accessed it, they haven't touched it, they haven't fished in it,” he said.
The bill proposes adding two additional seats to the board and adjusting eligibility requirements to serve on the board, which currently include property ownership. One of the seats would be reserved for a representative of a tribal nation.
“Believe that by adding the original stewards of the land to the conversation, we can make sure to better reflect our communities wishes and desires as well,” Arambula said.
The bill proposes a one-time $15 million appropriation to fund operation and management costs. AB 559 has passed the Assembly and will be heard in the Senate.