"The river becomes such a remote area in downtown that it's as if you're going to the back country," says Los Angeles Urban Ranger, architect and landscape architect Therese Kelly.
This Saturday, the Los Angeles Urban Rangers are once again taking the intimidation factor out of exploring the Los Angeles River with the River Ramble, a free guided tour beneath the historic Sixth Street bridge and into the Los Angeles River itself. Tours might include sightings of native species such as black-necked stilts or black-clad film crew.
With the help of Play the L.A. River, the Los Angeles River Revitalization Corporation, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), and the Association for Women in Architecture + Design (AWA+D), the L.A. Urban Rangers, who riff off the beloved park rangers, will similarly bring a nature feel to an often underappreciated urban wilderness.
"The idea is to bring home the message that cities aren't that different from nature and that they're our human habitats," says Kelly.
This River Ramble was inspired by a similar event in 2012 done in partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art. More than 700 people showed up during the event to walk from the museum to the Sixth Street bridge.
The rangers are hoping the same enthusiasm will also be evident this weekend, as the city starts to say its goodbyes to the historic bridge, which will be demolished in parts over the next four years.
Watch scenes from the last River Ramble event:
In homage to this soon-to-disappear icon, the Urban Rangers are planning trivia games related to the bridge, as well as usher residents beneath the bridge for last lingering looks. AWA+D will also have a station where people can design their own bridges.
In the process, the Urban Rangers will also highlight other issues on the river through fun, interactive activities such as a water bar, where residents can be water sommeliers.
"The L.A. River was the city's sole source of water for 130 something years. Now we import so much water from other places, hundreds of miles away, while as much as 10 billion gallons of water goes out to the Pacific Ocean," says Kelly.
At the water bar, Urban Rangers make water from different Department of Water and Power districts such as East Los Angeles (whose water comes partly from the Colorado River and the California Aqueduct) and West Los Angeles (whose water is sourced from the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the California Aqueduct) available for tasting.
To highlight the still prevalent problem of access to the Los Angeles River, the Urban Rangers have playfully created their own back country permit, acknowledging the river as a public space and a navigable water way. The back country permit will be signed on top of a mandated city permit. "Isn't it strange that the river is a public space but we still have to get permission to be in it?" Kelly asks.
Residents can also have a little fun with the city permit. A station will teach them how to make different river-related origami such as blue herons and steelhead trout, from a small piece of paper.
"There's a gazillion dollars going into river revitalization," says Urban Ranger and L.A. River guide Jenny Price. "Its revitalization will have consequences for the neighborhoods of Los Angeles when with it comes cleaner air, better water quality, but if you stop people on the street and ask, 'What's going on in the Los Angeles River?' They'll still ask, 'Where's the river?' The public imagination is still behind the policy folks despite all this activity."
L.A. River Ramble happens this Saturday, March 28, 4 p.m. to sunset at Santa Fe Avenue and Mesquit Street, under the 6th Street Viaduct. RSVP encouraged but not required.