Despite the furor of good news and resulting developmental speculation along the 51-mile waterway, cyclists and pedestrians in the neighborhood know that even the simplest things are missing while walking along the Los Angeles River path in Elysian Valley. In particular, water fountains, rest rooms, and shady rest stops.
Every weekend this summer, a project by the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR) attempts to make river rambling a little more enjoyable: Frog Spot, dubbed an "oasis on the Los Angeles River."
"For years, FoLAR's work has shown Los Angeles that its river is a place to be enjoyed and experienced, not just driven past," said Lewis MacAdams, FoLAR's co-founder and president, in a statement. "With the opening of Frog Spot, Angelenos now have a base of operations for river explorations, and a café with a nature-oriented location like nothing else in L.A."
Located right down the River path from Newell Street, Frog Spot is certainly that. Paper lanterns and emergency cones signal the approach to this little getaway. Pristine and welcoming, the small café-like rest stop, funded by Miss Me Jeans and REI, is filled with gleaming white furniture set upon garden stones that conjures up images of barbecues in the backyard. White sails stretched overhead provide much needed shade on the hot summer days, while the leaf tables and chairs entice residents to rest for a few moments.
Apart from free water, Frog Spot also offers a temptation for tech-inclined river lovers: wifi. Parents with kids will enjoy the children's corner, with art and supplies readily available.
A small vintage trailer manned by FoLAR's Laura Kelly offers small snacks, drinks and L.A. River merchandise for purchase. Popsicle sticks have proven popular, especially in the afternoons, said Kelly. Sales go toward FoLAR's funds for its river programs.
"We wanted to build a community feeling in this part of the neighborhood," Kelly said. "A lot of people go through here, but don't have the chance to linger." She hopes Frog Spot will be another reason for people to hang around.
FoLAR is planning a suite of ticketed events every Saturday evening this summer, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Expect weekend nights filled with music as local bands take the stage. "We're booking a surf band, and even one that plays cumbia," shared Kelly.
During the early hours of the past fourth of July weekend, a number of cyclists were taking advantage of the morning sun to make their way down the bike path. Many expressed delight and surprise at this new amenity, which has been open for three weeks.
"I love it," said Amanda Greenman, an avid cyclist who moved from Michigan. Greenman's rides have opened her eyes to the natural side of Los Angeles, which she regularly shares with her brother back in Michigan via photos taken on her cellphone. "It's exciting that people are excited enough to create something like this along the river," she said.
Ophthalmologist and cyclist David Karlin made his way to the Los Angeles River bike path with friends. A West Hills resident, he doesn't get to ride the path that often, but was happy to see an amenity like Frog Spot on the river. "It's a great idea," he said. "L.A. really needs more green spaces."
Frog Spot is open Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through October 5. Ticketed events are held on Saturday evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Photos: Carren Jao