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Walking the Sherman Oaks Village Gardens

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Garden Roses. | Photo: Clotee Pridgen Allochuku/Flickr/Creative Commons
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The Sherman Oaks Village Gardens, located in Sherman Oaks, is a short stretch of the Los Angeles River where one bank has been reclaimed by the neighbors and where the state has created a mini-park on the other bank, complete with an outdoor classroom. Despite the concrete channel, this is an enjoyable green and flowering stretch. A neighborhood group, the Village Gardeners of the Los Angeles River, led the grassroots effort to reclaim a stretch of river, picking up trash and planting "whatever would grow" according to co-founder Annette Fuller. The site has a great feel; it's not the institutional uniformity found in many municipal projects.

STARTING POINT

L.A. River at Fulton Avenue.

DIRECTIONS TO START

BIKE: There is no river bikeway in this area at the present time. From the Metro Red Line, disembark at the North Hollywood station. Bike west on Chandler Boulevard and turn left onto Fulton Avenue. The walk begins on the near side of the Fulton Bridge over the L.A. River.

TRANSIT: Take the Metro Red Line and get off at Universal City. Board the Ventura Boulevard Rapid Bus (#750) and get off at Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Walk one block north to the L.A. River at Coldwater and Valleyheart Drive. Turn left, and walk upstream (west) along the L.A. River to Fulton Avenue.

CAR: Exit the 101 Freeway at Coldwater Canyon Avenue in Sherman Oaks/Studio City. Go south on Coldwater Canyon Avenue and turn right onto Moorpark Street. Turn left on Fulton Avenue and turn left again on Valleyheart Drive. Street parking is available on Valleyheart or Bloomfield Street.

WALKING DIRECTIONS

Enter the L.A. River right-of-way at the gate on the north side of the river, just east of Fulton (at the intersection of Bloomfield and Valleyheart). Turn downstream/left and walk along the river. The Village Gardeners have placed railroad ties to form a planter, and behind the ties are myriad flowering plants. On your right, creeping vines grow up the chain-link fence cascading down into the vertical channel.

The project thins out around Ethel Avenue, but the Gardeners still keep this area neat. They pick up trash, and provide trash cans and bags for dog walkers to clean up after their pets.

Continue walking until you approach the Coldwater Canyon Avenue Bridge (the first bridge you will encounter). You can walk up the ramp on your left to Valleyheart Drive, or take a steep footpath just past a large agave. Turn right and walk along the sidewalk on Valleyheart (north). At the corner, turn right on Coldwater and cross the bridge.

At the next corner, turn right Turn at Valleyheart (south). Enter the river right-of-way along the gate. Continue walking upstream. There is a gate with a sign stating that trespassing and loitering is forbidden. People walk, jog, and garden here every day, so just enter easily to the right of the gate. Like many sites on the river, the signage hasn't caught up with the current usage.

Walk down the ramp and continue walking upstream. On your left, check out the mural, by artist Laurie Troja, that adorns a surface drain conveying runoff from the street into the river. On your right is a good view of the cascading plants growing on the railing.

Past the mural is a small park known as the Richard Lillard Outdoor Classroom. Continue upstream, viewing the river rock amphitheater followed by native plant landscaping. Contrast the state's approach on this bank with the community approach on the far side. They are both very good projects. The Village Gardens has a folksy feel, with a wide variety of plants that are beautiful, but some are not particularly well-suited to the Southern California climate. The Richard Lillard Outdoor Classroom Park has a more institutional feel and a palette of only native plants.

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Richard Lillard Outdoor Classroom. | Photo: Laurie Avocado/Flickr/Creative Commons

Ascend the river rock stairs and check out the interpretive panel on river history, including historic photographs of flooding in the San Fernando Valley.

Turn right (north) onto Fulton and cross the bridge. At the end of the bridge, descend the steps on your right to take in the last little piece of the Village Gardens. Ascend the ramp to return to the start.

The Village Gardens, located in Sherman Oaks, is a short stretch of the L.A. River where one bank has been reclaimed by the neighbors and where the state has created a mini-park on the other bank, complete with an outdoor classroom. Despite the concrete channel, this is an enjoyable green and flowering stretch. A neighborhood group, the Village Gardeners of the Los Angeles River, led the grassroots effort to reclaim a stretch of river, picking up trash and planting "whatever would grow"according to co-founder Annette Fuller. The site has a great feel; it's not the institutional uniformity found in many municipal projects.

DINING

Casa Vega

13301 Ventura Boulevard

Sherman Oaks, California 91423

(818) 788-4868

Le Pain Quotidien

13045 Ventura Boulevard

CA 91604

(818) 986-1929

Natas Pastries, LA's Portuguese Bakery & Cafe

13317 Ventura Boulevard

CA 91423-6212

(818) 788-8050

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