Police Harrass River Tours in Downtown L.A.

September 2, 2010 § 7 Comments

LAPD escorts River tour leader Jenny Price at the 6th Street Bridge tunnel in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Richard Sherer

“And the cops have busted us. This is one bad ass tour of the LA River!!!”
Tweeted by BJustin 2:44pm August 21st 2010 

Creek Freak has frequently recommended Jenny Price and her wonderful Los Angeles River tours. Sign up for her upcoming tours on this Saturday September 4th 2010, as well as Sunday September 12th, Sunday September 26th, and Sunday October 3rd. The Huffington Post recently ran an excellent review of Price’s tour, with photos and a short interview (and Thirteen Ways of Seeing Nature in Los Angeles is actually required reading for all creek freaks!)   

Price has led river tours for more than 10 years. Since last month, they have a new and unwelcome feature: the Los Angeles Police Department. 

Jenny Price’s tours cover some of the most natural parts of the river, and some of the least. They end up with a visit to the all-concrete canyon in Downtown Los Angeles. Tour participants actually drive into the river, via the entry tunnel located directly under the 6th Street Bridge. It’s a great place to see the massive surreal concrete channel and also to view the historic downtown bridges. It’s also a place that shows up in lots of movies and commercials

On Jenny Price’s August 21st 2010 excursion, the police arrived and escorted the tour participants away from the downtown river. Then again on August 29th. In Jenny Price’s words: 

The LAPD was waiting for the HiddenLA tour today [8/29/2010] — same patrol car, Officer Swales.  

They said that it’s a “flood control basin” (and not a river), and that no one is allowed to be there.  Ever.  That no one, including any film companies, has ever had a permit to be down there (seriously).  And that they’ll cite me next time–even if I am carrying written permission from the Corps (which I was granted in 2005 and have been seeking again in the wake of last week’s run-in). 

Very, very disturbing.  

The HiddenLA and FoLAR tours are bringing 150-200 people to the river each month now–we have 3 September tours scheduled– and it’d be such a huge lost opportunity to not be able to show them the downtown stretch and talk about the master plan there. 

Jenny is now working with the city, the county, and the Army Corps of Engineers to get permission for officially accessing this area… and it’s not entirely who can grant access. Permitting on the L.A. River can be a mess and a hassle. I expect that it can get worked out, and some sort of permitted access will be granted… but Jenny tells me that she’s looking into possible alternative downtown river sites… likely to have lesser views. 

In some ways this story is emblematic of accessing the Los Angeles River… I remember days when I used to bring bolt-cutters to cut holes in fences, so I could lead walks in some of the most natural and least accessible stretches. We’ve come a long way from those days… but we still have a long way to go. 

It’s sad that while the city of Los Angeles is investing many millions of dollars to plan and implement improvements on the river, while one branch of the city family is harassing folks who are trying to build awareness of and support for that river’s revitalization. 

If you go on the tour this Saturday, please comment and let us know how it goes.

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§ 7 Responses to Police Harrass River Tours in Downtown L.A.

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