In My Orbit: Walking along the L.A. River

24 10 2013

Kayaking is becoming the latest L.A. River craze; but some environmentalist are none too pleased. The first rehab of the River created a nice habitat for Canadian Geese, Herons, Egrets, Ravens, Crows,Hawks and Ducks.  During the Fall and Winter, I hear the ducks every morning, as they fly overhead, doing their thing. The River has become quite the sanctuary, as the birds build nests and call it home.

Certain environmentalist feel the kayaking will disrupt and disturb the birds, as well as kill off any plant life that has developed. One such person who I ran into on my walk said that the over abundance of kayakers and other people would disturb this urban ecosystem and bring more debris and disruption.

I’m not sure how slow kayakers are disruptive, but all the traffic and dust from the constant construction that goes on in this area isn’t; so it doesn’t make much sense to me.

The new program managed by Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority opened a 2.5-mile sandy-bottomed stretch of the L.A. River along Glendale Narrows in Elysian Valley. The Pilot Recreation Zone opened over Memorial Day and ran through Labor Day, when the River conditions were calmest.  The initial reports tabulated by the EastsiderLA show that the pilot program went pretty well; read: we will see more of this next Summer as it is bringing some nice revenue to Los Angeles.

The small stretch the project encompassed is only in my little neighborhood of Elysian Valley/Atwater Village. The entire L.A. River stretches 52 miles and crosses over a dozen cities, flowing from the Santa Monica Mountains, through downtown Los Angeles, to the ocean in Long Beach. The Army Corps of Engineers paved the River in a sea of concrete in the 1930s for the purposes of flood control, but over the past few years, the city has sought to reclaim the area for recreation and habitat purposes. The federal government is now on board, offering four alternatives for rehabilitating the River to remove the concrete and restore the viability of the River as a water source and urban green haven.

L.A.’s newly-minted Mayor Garcetti is fully on board with one of them–Alternative 20. This, of course, is the most costly, but it is also the most encompassing taking into account the entire 52-mile stretch of River, rather than a few sections that are in the most prime neighborhoods.

From the Alternative 20 FAQs:

• This option would most fully accomplish the Study’s stated ecosystem and habitat restoration goals by achieving more direct connections to the river, bringing more natural seasonal riparian flow regimes to river-adjacent areas and providing a more robust connection to nearby habitat resources like Elysian Park and the Santa Monica and Verdugo Mountains.’

• This is the path to realizing the full potential of the river’s restoration.

• Without this full restoration, connections will not be made to all possible parks, trails, and greenways—many of which are recent additions that reflect investments by the City, the State, and many community organizations.

• The comprehensive restoration laid out in Alternative 20 best matches the City of LA’s LA River Revitalization Master Plan, by creating ‘a seamless network of natural habitat areas, parks, bike paths and pedestrian trails.’

• In the Army Corps’ own analysis, Alternative 20 results in four times more economic development than Alternative 13.

• Alternative 20 includes the most direct connections to: (1) the river (2) other public lands and trails (3) seasonal influences and water flows (4) other habitat resources, notably the Elysian Hills and Verdugo Mountains.

Being a fairly recent Atwater Village/Elysian Valley resident, I have enjoyed this little stretch of the River, and am happy to see the economic viability of making it a recreational zone for kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Others are less thrilled, pointing out that this is more corporate think tank postulating and planning, and a real estate developer’s wet dream, rather than something that incorporates the current residents’ desires and vision for their neighborhoods.

The Free Association Design blog does a pictorial overview and opinion piece on this very subject, showing images of the futuristic urban plans.

I find this whole conversation extremely interesting. My husband and I hope to stay in this area, so it will be curious to see how all this develops and what the L.A. River will look like in say, another five years.

Time will tell…



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