The Los Angeles River continues to be scalding hot, and that’s not just the summertime temps of the water. Two big river events in two days this week, the official groundbreaking for the Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge, followed by the sixth annual River Day at City Hall.
The city has worked on being “riverly” since — 1988 — according to former Councilmember Tom LaBonge who retired in 2015. It’s been a long road with our community still waiting for promised federal dollars to the tune of $2.6 billion to restore the river’s habitat.
Let’s count down what’s happened since the last River Day. The slogan could be “connect, don’t neglect” as underserved communities regain the connections lost to the construction of a concrete flood control channel:
— Four new and-and-bike friendly bridges to connect communities: Taylor Yard Pedestrian Bridge, North Atwater Village, Red Car Pedestrian Bridge and Verdugo Wash Bridge that will connect Glendale to L.A.
— Friends of the Los Angeles River’s celebrates the 30th annual LA River Clean-up and begins #CrackTheConcrete fundraising campaign. It’s a classic FoLAR campaign that is pro Taylor Yards/G2 River Park and its long-promised habitat restoration and con Casitas Lofts, a 420-unit housing development.
— LA River, Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, to get $4.3 million from state budget for restoration.
— Opening of Albion Riverside Park in Lincoln Heights.
— $18 million in state funding for a continuous bike path along the river. Remember, this is a 51-mile waterway.
— Last week the Environmental Protection Agency awarded $500,000 to help clean up the polluted soil of Taylor Yard/G2.
— Councilmember David Ryu takes on chairmanship of river committee from Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.
“Some day the LA River steelhead will come back,” Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell said at the river celebration, echoing what FoLAR co-founder Lewis MacAdams said for many years to anyone who would listen.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
Over the last couple of weekends, the stalwarts of Trout Unlimited South Coast Chapter put on a series of beginning workshops at the Bowtie parcel, a 17-acre site near Fletcher Bridge that is as urban as it gets. In 2003, California State Parks purchased the narrow strip of land adjacent the Los Angeles River, once part of Southern Pacific Railroad’s maintenance and operations facilities called Taylor Yards. If nothing else, it’s a chance to squint your eyes and see what it could become.
And Los Angelinos certainly have embraced this urban outlier in any number of positive ways, including the LA River Campout that is so popular, the 75 campers are chosen through a lottery. This chance to cuddle up in a sleeping bag and see the stars is an initiative of California State Parks in partnership with Clockshop, the National Park Service and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
As for fishing, TU led the way last year with “Vamos a Pescar,” during which some 120 urbanites learned to fish.
This year’s stats showed 110 attendees over the two May weekends, with a third under 18, and pretty evenly split overall between female and male.
After two Saturdays filled with the joy of passing our sport along to others — and the chance to practice patience while unspooling line from inside a reel (how does that happen?), I thought of these words from “A Place in Between”:
What is a park? Is it a place to escape the surrounding city? A place to breathe and contemplate? Or is it a gather place? A place to celebrate, laugh, play and compete? Perhaps it is a place to learn and grow? A place where our shared cultural and natural histories are celebrated? Is it a place of beauty? A place of pride designed by our finest architects? Or a place apart, left alone for nature to run its course?”
As you squint your eyes at the Bowtie, what is magically becomes what could be. Our collective imagination will be our compass, our guide, our pole star for the future.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
Thirty years of cleaning up our river, more than 70,000 volunteers and 500 tons of hauled out trash, make this April event that just ended yesterday the biggest urban waters clean up in the country, according to Friends of the LA River, creator of the event.
Over the years, oddities pulled out of its water include:
— a Volkswagen Beetle — a phone booth
— one entire dumpster — a portable toilet
And recently, as fisher folk know, lots of carp, bass, tilapia and an occasional former aquarium dweller.
As FoLAR’s Lewis MacAdams told me once, “When the steelhead return to the river, we’ll know our job is done.” The motto on his statute in the park named after him says it all.
See you on the river, Jim Burns
As I looked through the offerings for the first LA Times Food Bowl, post Jonathan Gold, I found this:
In 2007, LA unveiled a plan to revitalize the river and restore the watershed as a place for Angelenos to gather and connect. Event participants will see the results and learn how the plan has progressed from this experience, featuring chefs from the LA area. Chefs Neal Fraser (Redbird), Austin Cobb (The Strand House) and Zach Pollack (Alimento and Cosa Buona) will help create the meal in this celebration of the river’s revival. A four-course, family-style, long-table dinner is preceded by a cocktail hour. And a portion of the proceeds will benefit River LA.
The price seems outrageous to me — $265 — especially as the event’s listing is in the “giveback” category. Although I couldn’t find a definition for this category on the website, I suppose it broadly means giving back to the community.
Other givebacks include the Santa Monica Farmers Markets visit, billed as an education of how to shop seasonally, based on CalFresh, the state program that provides food assistance to low-income Californians. This tour includes partner Hunger Action Los Angeles that “can connect people to food resources and provide information on how to help combat food insecurity in your community.” The event is free.
That same day — May 1 — includes another giveback titled The Immigrant Dinners, in which “an immigrant friend of the restaurant will share his or her family recipes.” The website doesn’t mention a price for this event.
A few days later, there’s another free farmers market event at the Crenshaw Farmers’ Market that again explores CalFresh and includes “SEE-LA farmers markets will host art projects on the same day that the Department of Public Social Services will be on-site to sign up eligible participants for CalFresh Awareness Month.”
And in the Pasadena area, there’s a giveaway event beginning May 6 entitled Pasadena Restaurant Week. Costs vary by restaurant, according to the website, but apparently part of the fee ” will be providing financial support for public high school student internships with a Pasadena-based non-profit dedicated to commercial food waste.”
Other givebacks include:
— Taste of the Nation for no Kid Hungry. Price $115.
— The Pie Hole Wheel of Pie-zes. Price $1.
— Kirby Street Project. Price $175.
— Chefs Timothy Hollingsworth and Charles Michel from Netflix’s “The Final Table.” Price $85 without wine.
— Urban Gardening and the Future of Scones. Price: $30.
— Fundraising Dinner with Chor-Man. $55.
So, you get the point — some of these events are for charitable causes and some, such as the Weekend of Prosciutto di Parma ($50), seem based more on public relations, I mean, awareness.
Question: If I do pony up for the $265, will my money go to awareness about a fishable river? I participated in 2016 Friends of the LA River’s lower river fish study and wonder when the upper river study will be completed.
Will my money go toward asking Congress when the billion-plus dollars to restore the habitat of more than 10 miles of the river will be forthcoming?
Or will my money go toward connecting the LA River to the home of steelhead trout in the San Gabriel Mountains?
What I find on the River LA website is a picture of Gov. Gavin Newsom with Supervisor Hilda Solis and “world-renowned architect Frank Gehry.” What’s missing is an image of restored nature I crave in the middle of Los Angeles, the solitude of throwing a fly line toward rising carp, the simple tranquility that is the birthright of urban kids who grow up near its banks.
As Mayor Eric Garcetti recently wrote in a letter imploring Congress to act on the funded promised for the Los Angeles Ecological Restoration Project, ‘“The L.A. River is a national treasure running through the heart of our city — and a destination where Angelenos and visitors alike can interact with nature and connect our storied history with a more sustainable future.”
Think carefully before spending your money and see you on the river, Jim Burns
Where: The Los Angeles River (Location reveal when you sign up)
When: Tuesday, May 28, 4-9 p.m.