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Glendale One Step Closer to a Fully Recreational Riverfront

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This article is a part of KCET and Link TV's “Summer of the Environment,” which offers a robust library of content on multiple platforms from June-August intended to ignite compassion and action for helping to save and heal our planet.

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Glendale might soon be the first city in greater Los Angeles to dedicate all of its riverfront to recreation. On March 3rd, the Glendale City council approved plans to enhance its Glendale Riverwalk project, approving conceptual plans for two parks and two bridges on the Riverwalk, as well as permission to seek funding for further design and construction of the latter two bridges.

The current Glendale Riverwalk (Phase One of the project) opened to the public in December 2012. The project sits opposite Griffith Park and extends from Bette Davis Park on the west to Flower Street on the east. It offers half a mile of native landscaping, walking and bicycling trails, public art inspired by Stop Motion, and even has Glendale's dedicated equestrian community in mind. A facility on Phase 1 allows horse-owners to exercise their steeds before heading out to Griffith Park.

Phase 2 of the project would complete the nearly one-mile Riverwalk and the remainder of the trail by building Flower Plaza on Flower Street and Fairmont Avenue, and Confluence Park by the Los Angeles River and Verdugo Wash further downstream. Flower Plaza would connect the bike path on either side of it and includes construction of a small bridge over the flood control box culvert. The resulting trail will be continuous from the Riverwalk Entry Park by Bette Davis Park, east past Dreamworks at the Flower and Fairmont intersection and then turning south to the Verdugo Wash by the 134 Freeway.

City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Flower Plaza
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Flower Plaza

Both parks are set to be completed by 2016. "Phase 2 completes the development of the greenway from stem to stern," says Glendale city engineer, Kevin Carter.

Funds for Phase 2 are already available. Carter shares that $975,000 of Proposition 84 funds are available to build the two parks, and another $425,000 from Measure R is reserved for construction on the culvert. Marc Stirdivant, Glendale's Senior Administrative Analyst for Community Services & Parks adds, "Once we've completed Phase 2, Glendale will be the only city on the entire L.A. River to devote one hundred percent of its river frontage to recreation."

And what a vision the city has. Rather than become a throughway for Angelenos passing through, Glendale wants its Riverwalk to be a place to stop. "We want to make gathering spots so people can come and hang out," says Stirdivant.

Simple changes like changing out a six-foot high chain link fence with a lower 42-inch wrought iron version, putting in stadium seating at Flower Plaza, and adding Adirondack chairs at Confluence Park are being planned.

City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Confluence Park
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Confluence Park

In addition to completing the parks of Glendale Riverwalk, the city has also approved conceptual designs for two bridges that would increase the Riverwalk's connectivity to Los Angeles--Phase 3 of its Riverwalk project. Los Angeles River Bridge will connect the Riverwalk bikeway to the Los Angeles River bike trail adjacent to Griffith Park. The Verdugo Wash Bridge will connect the Riverwalk to North Atwater. The exact location of the bridges has yet to be determined.

Phase 3 funding only covers design development, outreach, and project feasibility, however. The city still needs to find funds to actually build these bridges. "Much of the purpose of this effort is to detail the potential bridge enough to submit for grant funding," says Carter.

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About 200 residents came out to a series of workshops held by the city to help choose a conceptual design for the bridges. "We're trying to improve connectivity of our trails with other trails," says Carter, "One of the biggest ways to do that is by going across the river and connecting to Griffith Park."

At the workshops, residents overwhelmingly chose the Garden Bridge design out of a total of eight different alternatives. Three other runner-ups were also identified. Because the project isn't yet funded for construction, Glendale is quick to make clear that what is agreed during the workshops are only signposts to future possibilities.

City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Winning Concept, Garden Bridge
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Winning Concept, Garden Bridge

The winning Garden Bridge design is one that imagines a bridge as a destination, not just a means of getting from point A to point B. The bridge would have a winding S-shaped form, where its curves settle into shaded seating areas where residents can view the Los Angeles River and beyond. The seating would be a contemplative space separate from the fast-moving driving, walking and bicycle lanes. Construction costs are estimated to be between $10 and 15 million.

Other options, which may be considered, given the funding available, are a low-profiled arched bridge outfitted with solar panels, one that looks like it stands akimbo over the Los Angeles River in profile, and a simpler concrete truss. Designers say that the second, smaller Verdugo Wash bridge would be similar to Garden Bridge.

City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Solar Arch Bridge
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Solar Arch Bridge
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Concrete Truss Bridge
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Concrete Truss Bridge
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Garden Bridge
City of Glendale Narrows Riverwalk Project Bridge Design - Garden Bridge

"Particularly in central and south Glendale, we have a large population living a park poor area, in many cases it's also an economically disadvantaged area. And yet they're in the shadow of Griffith Park, which is the largest park in an urban setting in the United States and they can't get there," says Glendale city councilwoman Laura Friedman, "Having a way for those people to easily bike or walk to Griffith park will change those people's lives."