Quick Mends: Increased river access update

With the upcoming river cleanup happening Saturday, it’s an appropriate time to check in with California State Senator Kevin De Leon SB1201, a bill that could bolster efforts to open up the Los Angeles River for lawful recreational uses, such as fishing. For context and the finer points, read this excellent summary from Legal Planet, a collaboration between UC Berkeley School of Law and UCLA School of Law. The site defines itself as “providing insight and analysis on energy and environmental law and policy.”

As a fly fisherman, here’s my beef in a nutshell: I’m tired of being in a legal access morass as soon as I cast into the water.

We want to see legal access to the river for kayaking, fishing, and swimming. This won’t be the panacea that changes the river over night, but it will create a legal basis for people to come down to the river, FoLAR’s Lewis McAdams said to the wonky The Planning Report late last month.

“Fishermen have been ticketed. The City just uses a loitering ticket because they don’t have any L.A. River tickets. Of course it usually gets thrown out, but people have to spend the day downtown dealing with it. We want people to feel that the river is open. When I started Friends of the Los Angeles River, my first official act was cutting a big hole in the fence, declaring the river open. It’s only taken 25 years to get to this point. We’re at the point where the river is about to be opened, and we’re pushing the door gently open wider.”

See you on the river Saturday, Jim Burns

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LaRiverFlyFishing gets 10,000th hit, celebrates by supporting wider access to the river

From top left, clockwise, the tranquility of carp-filled pools, at the beginning of Glendale Narrows. Once you get past the city locks, you can see self-shadows and nifty bridge architecture. (Jim Burns)

Dear Senator Kevin de Leon:

I strongly support the bill (SB 1201) that I understand would significantly widen access to the Los Angeles River.

The Los Angeles River is the whole reason I became an environmental and fly fishing blogger. I’d been assigned a story on carp fishing in the river by Richard Anderson, publisher of California Fly Fisher, a bi-monthly publication that is carefully read among the fly fishing community.  As I’d never actually been to the river, my first step was to find access to the water. This turned out to be no easy task, and I can still clearly remember driving around the Atwater Village area of Los Angeles with my son. We zigzagged through parking lots, truck depots and all manner of what seemed possible entrances, only to find dead-ends, walls and barbed wire fencing.

Finally, we found an entrance tucked almost invisibly between the I-5 freeway and  a golf course. I later learned that this entrance is known as Steelhead Park.

I spent weeks researching that first piece, gleaning lots of information about the river, its fish and its restricted access. For example, I learned that Griffith Park rangers as well as Los Angeles Police Department officers were charged with ticketing anyone who strayed off the bicycle paths. Obviously, those fishing were actually doing so illegally.

In a short two years, recreational access has increased, largely thanks to the work of river advocate George Wolfe, FOLAR, a mostly cooperative city, and a vastly changed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. But we must go further.

When lives are not in danger from floodwaters, vast stretches of our 51-mile jewel should be open to the public. And, the public should be able to enjoy the access without the trepidation I first experienced.

Today, my blog www.lariverflyfishing.com reached its 10,000th hit, so I feel it is an apt celebration to make this letter to you public, in the hope that others will also write to you to support your efforts.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Quick Mends: (legally) kayaking the Los Angeles River

What a difference a year makes!

Last summer, the Environmental Protection Agency declared all 51 miles of the river navigable. This summer … well, it looks as if beginning July 8 for 50 bucks a person you’ll be able to kayak three miles of the rio through the idyllic Sepulveda Basin. For the full scoop, read Louis Sahagun’s piece in today’s Los Angeles Times.

Sign of the times: Kayaking could be coming to a river near you. (Jim Burns)

First off, this pilot program must win the approval of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Next,the Los Angeles Conservations Corps and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority will partner up to offer these wet-n-wild trips. Details to follow.

A shout out to George Wolfe, who was willing to break the law to get this rolling. Another shout-out to Councilperson Ed Reyes, a champion of the river. And to the many, many others (blogger Joe Linton comes to mind) who have pushed, cajoled, persuaded, informed, and insisted that the Los Angeles River must be transformed from a concrete channel to a natural river, for the people’s use and enjoyment.

See you on the river, Jim Burns