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If all goes to plan and permits are signed off quickly, this summer the Los Angeles River at Glendale Narrows will be the site of frolicking and river rambling, as Angelenos finally get to play on the river for free.
The proposal outlining a pilot recreation zone within a five-mile area of Glendale Narrows from Memorial Day to Labor Day was put before the Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee (LARCC) -- a joint working group that comprises government bodies with interests in the L.A. River -- on January 7.
"This is an evolutionary step. It's not the same thing as the Paddle the L.A. River program," said Barbara Romero, Director of Urban Projects of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), who attributed much of the proposal development to the work of Walt Young, MRCA Chief of Operations, "It's not just about boating. It's more about access."
The proposal grew out of the popularity of the Paddle the L.A. River program. After Governor Brown had signed the L.A. River Access Bill, meetings were held between the city, the county, United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the MRCA, who developed the implementation proposal for the Glendale Narrows. The MRCA is providing administrative oversight along the route, which makes great use of the various MRCA-maintained parks already in the area.
The pilot program is designed to offer free recreational opportunities for Angelenos along the Los Angeles River. The program would allow Angelenos to travel, birdwatch, hike, fish and boat down the traditionally navigable waterway from sunrise to sunset every day. Fishermen will also be able to fish along the site, but they should still pay for their fishing licenses. Permits still need to be provided for non-protected activities such as river clean-ups.
The trail begins where the interstate 5 and 134 intersect on North Atwater Park on the east bank where there is already existing parking. It then continues downstream up to Marsh Park, near where the 2 and the Los Angeles River meet. This is the midpoint, explains Chief Ranger Fernando Gomez, where people can easily exit for lunch at the park.
For those who want to continue, the river trail continues downstream until Egret Park on the west bank. In between, recreational users can enter and exit at North Atwater Park, Marsh Park and Steelhead Park.
While North Atwater Park and Marsh Park have public parking, Egret and Oso will have post-trip loading zones established. Parking for post-trip vehicles will be established at Arroyo Seco Confluence Park. Except for North Atwater Park, all other access parks are owned and maintained by the MRCA.
The trail however is not set in stone. Lupe Vela, Policy Director in the office of Councilman Ed Reyes who has been working with the team for over a year, says should the L.A. River Revitalization Corporation's permit on the North Atwater bridge push through, the trail may end up starting at Marsh Park instead.
Wayfinding and mile maker signs will help guide recreational users, as well as inform them of safety information and river uses. The mile markers especially will be of great use to the rangers, said Gomez, who would use these as landmarks should anyone report emergencies.
To ensure public safety, MRCA is calling upon its ranger force, who already patrol the area. The city will provide police and fire protection services. However, the ranger force presence is no replacement for basic safety. "It's only going to be safe as long as everyone is being safe," said Gomez. Should the proposal be approved, an updated mandate would be given to the rangers to enforce the law along the route.
The proposal was put before the LARCC to head off any complaints or hear out concerns coming from the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFD), the City of Los Angeles, and the USACE who all had representatives sitting at the table.
"I'm waiting to see more information. We still have to go through permit process, but we'll make sure this gets done as fast possible. We still a lot of questions," said David Van Dorpe, Deputy District Engineer for Project Management with USACE.
The project team is working under a tight timeline to get the proposal's final approvals. A technical grant from the National Park Service is helping the team get public input on the trail. The proposal will also go before the Ad Hoc River Committee January 28. A revised proposal is due January 31.
The City of Los Angeles and the office of Councilman Ed Reyes are seeking comments. A presentation of the proposed L.A. River Recreational Zone Pilot program will be held on January 24, Thursday 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, Los Feliz Room, 570 West Avenue 26, Los Angeles. You can RVSP to firstname.lastname@example.org.