Reimagining The Arroyo Seco

The Arroyo Seco was the environmental and geographical spine of one of Los Angele's first suburbs, Highland Park. It was also an inspiration to East Coast transplants looking for a respite from the city's growing industrialization. Muse to its artists and intellectuals, the Arroyo Seco offered vistas to Plein Air painters as well as building materials to local architects. The dry creek's charm however, would also hasten its ultimate demise. As population ballooned along the river banks and the cycle of seasonal flooding continued, the Arroyo would eventually be channelized in 1938, nearly extinguishing local wildlife and flora and transforming the landscape into a cement eyesore.

The Arroyo's identity evolved as the neighborhood became more urban. Graffiti artists took unexpectedly to the active watershed, using the cement walls as their canvas and, for good and ill, increasing the Arroyo's visibility. Efforts aimed at cleaning-up the Arroyo Seco have been underway for decades, and are now joined by government-led revitalization plans like the Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan. Restoration efforts, however, go beyond historic and ecological preservation. In a dense city lacking public space, the Arroyo Seco and the Los Angeles River open up the possibility for the creation of a unique "central park" that could knit together communities along the River's 52-mile length, providing pocket parks at the edges and public art projects to adorn the cement walls.

Photo by Flickr user waltarrrrr used under a Creative Commons license.

Above, urban planner John Arroyo illustrates how artists brought forth awareness of issues to the Arroyo Seco; Director of the Audubon Center at Debs Park Jeff Chapman details restoration efforts for the Arroyo Seco and the benefits of protecting its ecology; Board of Directors chair for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California Timothy Brick shares insight and thought on the Arroyo Seco revitalization.

Cultural Producers
Unsolicited art in the Los Angeles River sparked conversation about access to the watershed, and in some cases exemplify informal revitalization efforts.
A Progressive Look
Jeff Chapman talks about river pollution in the Arroyo Seco region and how the water can, and should, be restored.
Transforming Perspective
John Arroyo describes the power of conversation and growing perspective to encourage civic changes.
An Indication of Restoration
Jeff Chapman discusses the importance of restoring Highland Park's native eco-systems.
Restoring Fish
Steelhead and trout once flowed through the Arroyo Seco aplenty. Tim Brick discusses the necessary steps needed to restore the habitat for their return.
Hahamongna Watershed
The Hahamonga Watershed encompasses five rare and unique habitats.
Revitalization
Timothy Brick describes the unique qualities of western rivers and the significance of the EPA designation as a navigable river.
Explore the related interactive mural

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The Arroyo Seco Parkway

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The Audubon Center

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