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Share Your Stories and Photos of the L.A. River

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A sometimes-neglected part of the city, the L.A. River plays a vital role in Los Angeles' ever-changing history and landscape. For years, the quiet waters served as the foundation for various indigenous communities and ways of life. As a series of record-breaking rainfall flooded the riverside communities and destroyed parts of the landscape and surrounding homes, city officials in the 1930s called for the river's channelization. For the next 20 years, construction crews lowered and widened the channel and cemented the banks of the river bottom, essentially turning the river into a concrete flood control channel.

For many community members, though, the river is much more than a storm drain. Over the years, many Angelenos have become attached to the river and consider it a natural resource and a green space, right in the middle of their urban neighborhoods. Many remember days spent fishing or playing in the river, while others talk of riding bikes, collecting frogs, or watching tadpoles with friends and family.

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We're currently in the process of collecting people's stories of the river's past, present, and future -- and this is where we could use some help from our readers:

Do you or someone you know have stories or photos about your experiences along the river, especially during the time before its channelization? Please share them with us via email at lariverstories@gmail.com with your stories and photos.

Elysian Valley and the L.A. River before its channelization
Elysian Valley and the L.A. River before its channelization

As the river is once again used for recreation, and wildlife slowly begins to creep back, more and more people have come to regard the waterway as the backbone of the city. Many organizations and individuals in recent years have begun to call for the revitalization of the river, the restoration of its surrounding green space, and the protection of its wildlife, and just last year the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recommended a $1 billion plan to restore an 11-mile stretch of the river, from downtown L.A. to Griffith Park.

As former councilmember Ed Reyes says, the river is a source of "life ... [and] a sense of hope." In the words of river cleanup volunteer Martha Matthews, "There's something about this river that is very much about what L.A. is. It's a city where people have made many foolish decisions ... but at the same time, things come back. And you can rescue things and make them beautiful again."

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