In a gem of a piece, photographer Roberto (Bear) Guerra chronicles the species loss the LA River has suffered since being encased in concrete with photographs of specimens from the Western Foundation for Vertebrate Zoology and the LA County Natural History Museum.
An important photo essay as our city weighs the future of the river in terms of development and habitat restoration. A sample:
Western Toad (Bufo boreas) — Perhaps no animal is as emblematic of the decline of native species in the decades following channelization as the western toad. One of the neighborhoods adjacent to the soft-bottom Glendale Narrows section of the river is still known as “Frogtown,” for the swarms of young toads and Pacific treefrogs that hopped through the streets each year until the 1970s. Today, toads and frogs are rarely to be found.
When I first began exploring the L.A. River, problem No. 1 was finding it. My son and I encountered lots of barbed wire fences, dead-end big box parking lots, and industrial parks, all situated basically on the river, and all with no access granted. That was two years ago, and even though I now have my favs that get us to the carp, the river is basically an insider’s secret.
So, too, are the pocket parks scattered around its concrete banks. The first time I heard about the Yoga Pocket Park in Atwater Village, I thought someone was pulling my downward dog-facing legs … not so. The originators of this tiny green space — I believe the lead was Northwest Trees, but can’t swear to it — were afraid that a more traditional exercise park, based on stations for strenuous physical exercise, would bring gangs.
Today, walking north from the golf course in Atwater Village, through Steelhead Park (another hard-to-find spot, but from the golf course parking lot, head toward the freeway and you’ll see it), you’ll see North Atwater Creek Pocket Park after about 10 minutes of hoofing. Check out the waters here as well …
Open for about eight weeks, the park shows what the river will eventually become: neighborhoods connected instead of rejected; green grass instead of broken asphalt; good vibes instead of creepy. Take a look at the pics below to get a feeling for the place. And, fishermen, there’s a working water fountain, in case you’re thirsty.
Was it worth the $4 million that came primarily, according to city info, from the settlement of two Clean Water Act enforcement actions? Yes, yes, it was. Bring your rod and check it out. And if you have kids, bring them as well.