Those looking to spend some time down by the river best get ready. Last Friday the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) received a letter of No Objection from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). The letter, combined with the City Council approval of the project March 27, removes the last obstacle for the program to proceed with preparation for the pilot recreational zone in Glendale Narrows.
"This is a project that truly everyone played a part in. If we didn't have permission for Department of Transportation to change the parking, if we didn't have the City pay for signage, if we didn't have the California Fish and Wildlife to mitigate nesting we wouldn't have had a program," said Walt Young, MRCA Chief of Operations. "Anything could have stopped the program. Everyone played a critical role."
Originally planned to start from North Atwater Park, the recreational zone now covers the approximately 2.5-mile section between Rattlesnake Park by Fletcher Drive and Egret Park at the southern tip of Elysian Valley. Development of the North Atwater Bridge project as well as concerns from Atwater Villagers on the additional foot traffic from the river trail shortened the trail by half. The program will run during the daylight hours between Memorial Day (May 27) and Labor Day (September 2) -- a historic dry period for the Los Angeles River.
Despite the shortened route, the public will still be able to walk, hike, fish (with permits), birdwatch, and kayak for free along the route. Cyclists will have to keep within the bike paths.
Dogs will not be allowed in the riverbed and five feet up the riverbank. By doing so, the MRCA sought to protect the natural habitat in the area, including the wildlife and birds. "This is the first time birds are being protected in a program such as this," said Young.
It was a stipulation that drew remarks from pet owners in the area. In a letter addressed to the Ad Hoc River Committee, Atwater Village resident Andrea Ventura, who walks and runs with her dog along the river daily, writes, "As part of my daily recreational exercise, I encounter dozens of other residents or visitors walking their dogs along the river as well. Not once have I witnessed any destruction or safety problems as a result of any dog for the past four years. All the dog owners and dog walkers I meet thoroughly enjoy the river with their pet."
Leashed dogs however will be allowed on the path along the river, as well as adjacent river parks.
"Wildlife protection is one of our strong mandates, including complying with federal law on protecting migratory birds and endangered species," said Young. "Because it's the law, it takes precedence."
With approvals under the MRCA's belt, the organization is now looking to fine tune the permit structure for non-profit and for-profit groups looking to offer kayaking programs along the river (again, individuals and groups of individuals do not need permits to kayak in the zone), as well as reach out to groups willing to provide kayak rental services. Individuals are allowed to kayak for free. A website is scheduled to go live three weeks before the opening, informing the public of guide services, equipment rentals, and river field trips.