FoLAR’s Black Friday

February 13, 2010 § 3 Comments

Friends of the Los Angeles River

Some bad news from Los Angeles’ oldest river advocacy organization: Friends of the Los Angeles River is facing dire financial straits.

Yesterday, Friday February 12th, 2010, facing difficulties in meeting payroll, FoLAR’s board made the difficult decision to downsize greatly. FoLAR laid-off half its staff: both educational  director Alicia Katano and membership program director Ramona Marks no longer have jobs. Remaining staff, executive director Shelly Backlar and president Lewis MacAdams, have had their hours trimmed to part time.

FoLAR was founded in 1986. For about a decade, it was pretty much a  lone voice for the river. Since the mid-1990’s the Southern California watershed restoration movement has expanded to include numerous other groups. As various other non-profits and agencies planned, built, educated, legislated, and advocated for river restoration and renewal, FoLAR played a vanguard role in pushing the political envelope. Without FoLAR leadership (including building coalitions and initiating legal actions) existing state parks at the Cornfields and Taylor Yard (Los Angeles State Historic Park and Rio de Los Angeles State Park, respectively) would not exist.

I worked for FoLAR from 2005 to 2007, helping rebuild the organization after another fiscal crisis which saw a staff of four reduced to one  part-time executive director. I hope that FoLAR leadership will learn lessons from these crises and make the changes needed for FoLAR to again be strong and relevant and to again play a needed leadership role in L.A.’s watershed restoration movement.


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