Kayaking the Los Angeles River just got another boost. Yesterday, the Arts, Parks, Health, Aging and River Committee (APHAR) approved a request by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA) for the 2015 season of the L.A. River Recreation Zone, which will be open from May 25 all the way until October 1, 2015, sunrise to sunset, every day of the week. This will be an extension on previous recreation zone periods, which typically lasted from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
"It was really a collaboration with the city, who saw the need for more outreach with the schools," says Chief Ranger Fernando Gomez. "Last year, a lot of schools wanted to take their students out to the river, but they couldn't because the season was during the schools' vacation time."
By extending the season another four weeks, the city, local agencies, and river advocates are hoping to get more youth on the river, especially LAUSD students from schools close to the river such as the Sotomayor Learning Academies and John Marshall High School.
"We're supporting this because we believe that the overwhelming benefits of river recreation is building stewards in the area," says Steven Appleton, a Northeast Los Angeles resident who operates L.A. Kayak Safari, one of the kayak programs.
Other than the time extension, there are no other planned changes to the recreational zone. The zone will still cover two areas in Los Angeles: Sepulveda Basin and the Glendale Narrows. The same operators will also be offering kayaking expeditions on the Los Angeles River, though Gomez says there will be a vendor stationed in Marsh Park offering kayak rentals for self-guided tours of the river.
MRCA is now waiting for the final go-signal from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) in the form of a letter of no objection to its 2015 plans. It is also waiting to see if MRCA will once again be the recipient of $100,000 funding from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Bureau of Sanitation (BoS) as it had last year. Gomez says the funds from these two agencies would help add to the quality of MRCA Ranger services in both areas.
Last year the recreational zone doubled its visitor numbers from its previous to 6,200 people. The zone's increasing popularity also brought up the need for quality oversight on the part of MRCA. "The level of patrolling we have in place right now is that a ranger is assigned to each location," says Gomez. "We want to maintain that and even add a second ranger occasionally." MRCA is helped by the office of Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, which is formally submitting a request to both agencies for the funds.
"If we don't get the funding, we'll fall back to bare minimal patrolling," says Gomez. "We'll still have a recreational zone, but services will be at a scaled-back level.
One other effort the MRCA is looking to resolve is gaining the city authorization to manage the zone for the next five years, until 2020. Councilmembers weren't able to move on the matter because a report from Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks was still pending. The report, which would cover long-term funding sources for the recreational zone, should be delivered within the next 45 days. Councilman O'Farrell said, "I'd like to see the report and establish a regular funding, so MRCA would not have to make a yearly ask."
In the meantime, adventurous Angelenos (and even more impressionable youths) can once again explore the river during the summer season, a yearly development which Gomez is clearly happy about. "We are the bridge to make the connection to these resident's land, their river."