INSIDE THE HALLS
Last summer, I did something I had never known was possible in the City of Los Angeles, the city I grew up in. I took a tour of the Los Angeles River- and it was one of the most memorable and breathtaking experiences I have ever had.
What many of us think of as a forgotten concrete channel is in fact full of history, life, and natural beauty. The LA River was one of the original draws to settle here, and though its encasing mid-century to prevent flooding has diminished its presence, it has not reduced its importance.
While historically cities have grown up and thrived along their rivers, many likely couldn’t find ours on a map. However, as awareness of its importance to our communities, climate adaptation, and recreational space has increased over the past 20 years, we’ve gradually pivoted and refocused on its expansive 51 miles of opportunity.
Since 2002, the City of Los Angeles has been directly involved in the efforts to restore the river, partnering with groups such as the County of Los Angeles, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and the Army Corps of Engineers to work together towards bringing the city and the people back to their river. The Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan, most recently updated in January, reflects this group effort and promises a bright future for our waterway.
Mayor Villaraigosa has continued these endeavors throughout his time in office. Last year, the Mayor led the largest LA River cleanup in city history, and formed a vital collaboration between the City of Los Angeles and the Obama administration in order to restore and protect the watershed. Through the federal America’s Great Outdoors program and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, help is provided for the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, CleanTech Corridor, and the opening of many parks along the river and its tributaries.
The efforts across Los Angeles have a multifaceted purpose- to clean up and restore the watershed ecosystem, to refocus and redirect the city towards the river corridor, and to utilize the related projects as an economic development opportunity. These objectives center on one goal: to bring the river and the people of Los Angeles back together.
Today, accessibility to the Los Angeles River is better than ever. Urban creek trails, bike paths, and greenways are in the works, and many have already been built. Elysian Valley Bikeway, Confluence Plaza, and North Atwater Park are some of the stunning projects that have already been completed. Groups like Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) give tours of the LA River, where you can have an experience at several locations in one day.
Want to get even closer? Starting today, tickets go on sale for the 2012 return of Paddle the LA River, where you can kayak down it in early autumn. With a huge turnout for last year’s inaugural season, tickets will go quickly for this unique opportunity.
My visit to the Los Angeles River not only changed my perspective of the river itself, but opened my mind to the myriad of possibilities for our city’s future. True, restoration has been a difficult and lengthy process, but one trip to the river will show any Angeleno that’s its a worthwhile effort.
Fantastic transformations for our river, and your accessibility to it, are closer than you may think.
— Amanda Irvine
Office of Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa
Inside The Halls is the weekly staff blog of the LA Mayor’s Office.