What better way to celebrate a trip to the river than downing a good brew dedicated to the waterway itself? That's exactly what husband-and-wife team Dave Hodgins and Vanda Ciceryova thought when they started work on Dry River Brewing.
"This is really a passion project for us," said Hodgins, who on regular hours owns a consultancy group that works to implement renewable energy programs on a large-scale. His wife, Ciceryova, runs a yoga studio and art gallery in Highland Park. Despite managing separate businesses, he and his wife are working to build a craft beer company -- with a purpose.
The couple began brewing right out of their Mount Washington home just for friends and family, producing such flavors as Horchata Cream Ale and Pumpkin Pie Porter. Positive feedback soon encouraged the couple to plunge into the craft brewing trade, but it was only when they glimpsed the Los Angeles River that they found true inspiration.
"To fish or not to fish?" to paraphrase Shakespeare, is no longer the question, at least in the Los Angeles River Pilot Recreational Zone. But those without a license might want to think twice before wetting a line.
In a grand urban experiment spearheaded by outgoing L.A. Councilman Ed Reyes, two-and-a-half miles of soft-bottomed river, from Fletcher Drive south to Egret Park, recently opened for a summer of recreation. It's the first time in 70 years that Angelenos can legally fish, kayak, bird watch and do just about everything except swim in its treated, Tide-scented waters.
From the iconic 25-inch "last steelhead" caught by Dr. Charles L. Hogue near Glendale in 1940, to numerous tales of carping, which include everything from fly fishing, catch and release, to clubbing, catch and keep, the river is no stranger to piscatorial pursuits. Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) commissioned the only fish study ever done on the river. Of the 1,200 fish caught, mosquito fish and tilapia were the most abundant, but fishermen come here to catch carp, which have gone from trash fish to game fish during the last 20 years.
This month has been good for parks in L.A. Following the opening of the brand new Nature Gardens at Natural History Museum and Spring Street Park, and the re-opening of Echo Park Lake, Angelenos have another new public space to perhaps make other cities green with envy.
This morning Sunnynook River Park was unveiled to the public. Situated between two pedestrian bridges that connect the river to Griffith Park and Atwater Village, across the 5 Freeway and the L.A. River, the new park joins several other parks and parklets that have opened along the river in recent years, including Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, Steelhead Park, Egret Park, Rattlesnake Park, Marsh Park, and Rio de Los Angeles State Park.
Last week Elysian Valley residents achieved a milestone in their L.A. river-adjacent neighborhood. With the support of Congressman Adam Schiff, Councilman-elect Gil Cedillo, and a number of officials, the neighborhood received a commitment from Metrolink that it would conduct a Health Risk Assessment (HRA) of the Central Maintenance Facility located at 1555 N. San Fernando Road, on the east bank of the Los Angeles River.
"It was something our board determined to be in the best interest of everyone to conduct," explained Scott Johnson of Metrolink Public Affairs. "Our agency is a joint-powers authority made up of 11 voting members. Each member is an elected official in their own right and they feel it's imperative that we know what we're emitting in our facility." Johnson confirmed that Metrolink will shoulder the cost of the study, which estimates have put between $30,000 to $100,000.
"A health risk assessment is not a costly thing to do," said Representative Adam Schiff, "It will give us real data about what needs to be done and give residents peace of mind."
According to Grove Pashley of Northeast Los Angeles Residents for Clean Air Coalition, there was incredible support for the move by local officials such as Cedillo, whose office arranged three major community meetings as well as countless office meetings, but it was Schiff's participation which elevated the issue to a federal level and perhaps prompted the Metrolink to move forward with the study. Given the neighborhood's persistent efforts, Pashley hopes Metrolink understands the community's commitment to the cause. "I'm hoping they realize we aren't going away," said Pashley.
Over the past two years there has been growing concern that Elysian Valley residents are continually exposed to unknown quantities of diesel particulate matter -- a known carcinogen -- because of its location by the Metrolink's Central Maintenance Facility. As previously reported, adverse effects of diesel exposure include increased risk of heart attacks, aggravated asthma, bronchitis, and even premature death. Children and elderly are especially at risk. Without an accomplished HRA, however, those fears continue to loom. It is only now that those worries would be quantified and monitored.
An HRA is increasingly relevant given the continual development along the Los Angeles River. Already, the maintenance facility lies close to many venues frequented by those who live close by. These include Rio de los Angeles State Park that has sports facilities, which frequently host games for local kids. The facility is within half-a-mile of three elementary schools: Aragon Avenue Elementary, Dorris Place Elementary, and Glassell Park Elementary.
When it comes to the environment, everyone is part of the solution. To make things easier for the general public, Heal the Bay has just published an updated contact list on their website for residents to report pollution issues.
Residents can report sewage spills, clogged storm drains, illegal dumping, or other similar issues by consulting the contact numbers listed, by neighborhood, on the site. The link can be found here.
According to James Alamillo, Urban Programs Manager at Heal the Bay, the contact list has existed since the 1990s, after the Clean Water Act required cities with more than 100,000 people to develop stormwater management plans. Though a public education campaign was a critical component, it soon became apparent that the city had yet to establish formal procedures to report pollution problems.
"For example, most people often called the fire department thinking that the illegal discharge was considered hazardous waste, and get frustrated when no one came out to address the issues. Also, many people did not know the plethora of jurisdictions that existed with in the general L.A. basin," writes Alamillo.
He adds that different contact points also exist within different neighborhoods, which compounded the problem. "People could not often differentiate the jurisdictions for their work, play, or living environments. For example, they might want to report an illegal discharge they saw at work when they got home; however, they may work in Hawthorne but live in Inglewood."
Every day something new always pops up on the Los Angeles River. What better way to see how much things have changed than with a L.A. River-adjacent bicycle ride?
This Sunday, The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition (LACBC) will host its 13th annual Los Angeles River Ride to support cycling all over the county and raise awareness for Los Angeles River revitalization projects. Over 3,000 cyclists of all ages are expected to attend.
J.J. Hoffman, Development and Events Director at LACBC, reminds prospective attendees that anyone and everyone is welcome. "The ride is family friendly. Kids 12 and under ride free." Registration will be available on site, with fees ranging from $50 to $60 depending on the route. Dads, moms and kids can take part in the Family Bike Expo, which features workshops that teach children to stay safe while having fun on two wheels.
Climate change is an issue that affects us all, yet perhaps given the way the human mind works, or the enormity of the issue, it is often easier to procrastinate rather than to start working on solutions.
Reports like the neighborhood-centric one released by UCLA's Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, however, remind us that climate change is real and it will have measurable effects in our own backyard and in our lifetimes. According to the report, in 30 years, the region's summer will be longer and hotter. Los Angeles will experience triple the number of scorching days in downtown and quadruple the number in the valleys and high elevations. (Check out the per neighborhood stats here.) Climate change would also bring severe storms and damaging floods, which would leave the local population vulnerable, if no steps are taken.
Just last week, a consensus statement was released to the public signed by 520 scientists from 44 countries with a dire warning that the Earth is approaching its tipping point. "By the time today's children reach middle age, it is extremely likely that Earth's life-support systems, critical for human prosperity and existence, will be irretrievably damaged by the magnitude, global extent and combination of these human-caused environmental stressors, unless we take concrete, immediate actions to ensure a sustainable, high-quality future," the scientists write.
After 15 years in the Land of Sunshine introducing Angelenos to their own river, environmental writer Jenny Price is bidding L.A. goodbye. Famed for her L.A. River tours that literally get your feet wet and her work with art collective Los Angeles Urban Rangers, Price says the move was spurred by a need to be closer to family and also to pursue an intriguing book project. We chat with Price about the river, her thoughts on its future and her time in Los Angeles.
In the fall, you'll be going to the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich. After which, you'll be in Princeton working on your book and also teaching. With you gone, where does that leave your L.A. River tours?
My hope for a few years now is that what's going on in the L.A. River would outgrow my tours. At this point, it really should be public agencies, big non-profits that are doing most of it. But there are options for people: Friends of the L.A. River does tours. Shelly Backlar is the head of education programs there. They can see if they can get a tour of them. The L.A. River Revitalization Corporation is a big new player on the river that's getting into a lot of fun, creative new public programming on the river. There's the kayaking of course, George Wolfe and other folks offer that. I also co-founded a new art collective called Project 51. We're designing a big new project to get people on the edge of the river to eat play and dance. Hopefully, we'll start this fall and we'll be looking for lots of partners.
For many Angelenos, this year's Memorial Day turned out to be more than just the unofficial first day of the summer -- it was the beginning of a new era. The Los Angeles River, whose concrete channelization in the 1930s created a web of bureaucracy that largely prevented the public from legally entering the river, began its official Pilot Recreation program on this holiday. The natural-bottomed Glendale Narrows section of the river, between Fletcher Drive and San Fernando Road, is now open for recreation until Labor Day.
While a crosstown rivalry was brewing up at Chavez Ravine in Elysian Park, down the hill in Elysian Valley it was all about communities coming together. At Marsh Park, near the north end of the Recreation Zone, city officials, like city councilman-elect Mitch O'Farrell, and long time L.A. River stakeholders, like Lewis MacAdams of Friends of the L.A. River, were seen mingling with those eager to get their feet wet.
Here are views of some of the day's excitement, from kayakers and fishers, to those just enjoying the narrow strip of nature that will hopefully soon be open year-round, and become a sense of pride for all Angelenos. For more information, visit the L.A. River Pilot Recreation Zone website.