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Walking It Out Along the NELA River

The NELA River Collaborative project builds upon the growing momentum of efforts already underway to transform the Los Angeles River into a "riverfront district" and to create a focal point of community revitalization. For more information on the collaborative visit our website www.mylariver.org

KCET Departures is the media partner of the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative.


On Sunday April 7, over 60 pedestrians of all ages, some with their dogs, joined a walk to explore Northeast Los Angeles. The walk included the exploration of businesses along Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village, crossing the arching pedestrian bridge over the L.A. River and down to the river to walk along the banks, hearing live music on the banks, and relaxing in shady Rattlesnake Park in Elysian Valley.

Artists Bettina Hubby and Colleen Corcoran of Los Angeles Walks co-organized the walk with a goal toward the encouragement of more collective walks that explore the neighborhoods of L.A. and its riverly recreational asset. The walk started at Thank You For Coming, an experimental food and art space in Atwater Village. They provided delicious picnic lunches that were welcomed by hungry pedestrians at the end of the approximately 4-mile walk.

Group walks like this one are welcome additions to the L.A. landscape normally dominated by the car. With more organized walks that tour the city by foot, perhaps a formidable challenge can be waged against the ubiquitous lyrics from Missing Persons, who unforgettably belted out that "nobody walks in L.A."

Co-organizers Bettina Hubby and Colleen Corcoran rally the walkers in front of Thank you for Coming in Atwater Village | Photo by George Villanueva

Walkers cross the pedestrian bridge over the river | Photo by George Villanueva

Atwater resident Angela Gee playfully poses on top of an artistic vortex creation along the riverbank | Photo by George Villanueva

The walk also challenged people's notions about the L.A. River. Walkers were able to see and touch the river up close and personal, and explore the part that flowed through the northeast L.A. neighborhoods. This experience further supports the efforts to transform the river to a recreational greenway that also can attract nature seekers, sustainable economic development, and people who seek public gathering places.

As part of the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative, I worked with the co-organizers to encourage the walkers to re-imagine the river and participate in the NELA RC's interactive placard exercise. They were asked to write or draw responses to the prompt "I want my L.A. River to be..." Several responses are displayed in the slideshow below.

If the L.A. River and its surrounding neighborhoods pique your interest, feel free to come out to the NELA River Bike + Walk Spectacular on April 27, starting at 4 p.m. in Marsh Park in Elysian Valley. Participants will be able to join a bike ride or walk route, map the experience with their mobile phones, participate in family-friendly activities at a community fair, and end the night at a bike-in movie screening of "Beetlejuice."

Top: A view of the walkers along the riverbanks from the pedestrian bridge. Photo by George Villanueva.

About the Author

George Villanueva is currently a PhD Candidate at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, with a research focus on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development.
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