Much has been done to reconnect the Los Angeles River to its diverse communities, but still there are some loose ends that need to be tied.
Two grants recently awarded to Community Conservation Solutions (CCS) is set to close one such gap between Coldwater Canyon and Whitsett Avenue in Studio City.
Right now, Angelenos are simply treated to an intimidating sight when passing by. "At the moment, it's a bunch of barbed wire that's slowly rusting out. It's an eyesore and it's unsafe," said Alan Dymond, president of the Studio City Residents Association, which helped fund the grant application.
CCS has been awarded $751,000 from the CA Natural Resources Agency to extend the LA river trail and create public access to that half-mile stretch and $329,000 from Caltrans aimed at restoring the natural habitat by the river. "We're plugging holes in the LA River Trail to make it continuous," said Dymond.
Once completed, the crucial piece would create over five miles of continuous pathways along the Los Angeles River, bridging the area maintained by the Village Gardeners (http://www.kcet.org/socal/departures/lariver/confluence/river-notes/it-takes-a-village.html) to an existing river trail from Whitsett to Laurelgrove.
The project is now in its design phase. By next year, CCS will be conducting public outreach activities within Studio City, to see what residents are hoping in this newly public amenity. The draft proposal now includes planting over 4,000 native trees and shrubs, adding benches and shaded areas for lounging, as well as ornamental public access gates on Whitsett and Valleyheart Drive. If all goes well and permits are promptly secured, construction should start sometime 2015.
Adding green a part of San Fernando Valley that only has about 1 acre of parkland per 1,000 people (the national standard is 6 to 10 acres per 1,000 people) is exciting, but what underlines the project's pivotal place in the bigger picture is connectivity, says Esther Feldman, President of CCS.
The project is located near bus stops, a Metro line within the biking distance, and a 391-car public parking garage. It's the garage that lights up Feldman while speaking over the phone. "It's a great parking garage that backs up right into the LA river trail." She explains. "It has an ADA-compliant ramp goes right down onto the river with a pedestrian bridge that crosses the river. We'll be connecting all that so people will be able to come to this section of the river and ride 10 miles if they want to."
Feldman goes on to explain that it's connectivity that will really turn the river into a city asset. "Just having little unconnected pieces is nice if you live there but it's not likely to draw people from diff communities. As soon as you connect things and make it easier to get there -- maybe because there's a parking garage nearby or a bus stop or Metro station, then you've created a linear greenway. That's the vision of the L.A. River Masterplan."