Reflections on River Access

October 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

Sepulveda Basin: Great Blue Heron and Kayakers, Summer (painting by Joan Wolfe ©2012)

As the heat of summer slowly (hopefully) begins to wind down, so too has the second season of the pioneering L.A. River kayak and canoe excursions. The final group dropped into the River this past Sunday, an undoubtedly leisurely paddle between willows and sycamores, shopping carts and plastic bags. The 2012 installment hosted approximately 2,000 participants, an impressive increase from 2011, when the count for the pilot program was 260. The number of outfits operating on the River has also doubled and now includes Paddle the L.A. River (organized by L.A. Conservation Corps, MRCA, The River Project, FoLAR and Urban Semillas) and L.A. River Expeditions (organized by George Wolfe and the San Joaquin River Stewardship Program). I had the pleasure of paddling with both groups as a guest educator (thanks to Melanie Winter and George Wolfe for getting me out there!), a journey every Angeleno within reach of a buoyant non-motorized vessel should be able to experience at least once. « Read the rest of this entry »

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News and Upcoming Events – April 9 2009

April 9, 2009 § Leave a comment

Artist Linda Gass Wetlands Dream Quilt - click image to see more of her work

Wetlands Dream quilt by artist Linda Gass - click image to see more of her work - copyright Linda Gass

Creeky News:

>Rainwater harvester Brad Lancaster tours the Tujunga Wash Greenway and Stream Restoration Project.   More on the water harvesting front: Alternet tells about multi-benefit rainwater harvestingin Africa; the L.A. Times explores harvesting rainwater in Downtown Los Angeles.  Lancaster’s blog features a very good guest blog entry by Julia Fonseca critiqueing the use of crushed rock (decomposed granite.)

>Frederick Reimers‘ excellent article about the Los Angeles River kayak expedition is finally on the web (after appearing in print last December in Plenty magazine).

>Minnesota Public Radio talks about why the Red River floods Fargo.  (Thanks Judith Lewis.)

>The L.A. Times reports that California may approve new more civilized greywater regulations.  Creek Freak Joe Linton is still loving his unpermitted greywater system.

And for bridge geeks only:
>Bridge Photo of the Day blogger is working his way down the Los Angeles River
>Is Pasadena’s Colorado Street Bridge over the Arroyo Seco haunted?

 Freaky Events:

Cheong Gye Cheon river in Seoul South Korea - Photo: Wikimedia

Cheong Gye Cheon river in Seoul South Korea - Photo: Wikimedia

Dr. In-Keun Lee,  Assistant Mayor of Infrastructure of Seoul, South Korea, will be giving a talk about the dramatic revitalization of the Cheong Gye Cheong.  Seoul, South Korea, actually removed a dozen lanes of double-decked highway to daylight the historic creek that was buried below.  The free open-to-the-public talk takes place from 2:30pm-3:30pm on Friday April 17th, 2009 at the Edward R. Roybal Board of Public Works Session Room (Room 350) at Los Angeles City Hall – 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles, California 90012.  Entrance is on Main Street.  Easy access from the Metro Red Line Civic Center Station.

Bloggers Joe Linton and Damien Newton teach you how to use lots of cool free stuff on the web at our Internet Skills Class on Tuesdays April 21st and 28th.

President Obama invites you to clean-up the Los Angeles River at Taylor Yard on Saturday April 25th.  Then go back and do it again at Friends of the Los Angeles River’s La Gran Limpieza at more than a dozen sites on Saturday May 9th.

Bike the Emerald Necklace on the San Gabriel River and the Rio Hondo with the city of El Monte’s Tour of Two Rivers bike rally on Saturday May 16th.  Then bike the Los Angeles River on the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition’s River Ride on Sunday June 7th.

News and Upcoming Events – December 12 2008

December 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

Lots of fun things happening these days on our local creeks and streams! We’ve varied our format, because there are two important meetings next week that you won’t want to miss:

The city’s proposed River Improvement Overlay or “RIO” zoning (Creek Freak coverage here) will be the subject of a public hearing on Monday December 15th at 8am at Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1020, 200 North Spring Street, Los Angeles 90012 (entrance is on Main Street.)

The Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling on whether the Los Angeles River is navigable will be subject of meeting hosted by Friends of the Los Angeles River at 5:30pm on Tuesday December 16th at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, Atrium Room, 570 W. Avenue 26, Los Angeles 90065. The EPA’s David Smith will be present. If you made it through Creek Freak’s 4-part magnum opus on Nexus and Navigability, you’ll no doubt want to attend!

And there’s the recent news:

Kayaker Case Settled: Heather Wylie kayaked the LA River and was threatened with suspension from her job as a biologist for the Army Corps of Engineers. Earlier this week, she settled her case. She’ll be leaving her job and going to law school with plans to become an environmental attorney. Read the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility press release here, and for some background on the case, check Creek Freak’s earlier coverage. Important hearing on navigability next week – see below.

Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council)

Earthen Bottom Stretch of Compton Creek (Photo: Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council)

Comtpon Creek Flowing: The city of Compton and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority are moving forward with the Compton Creek greenway. Read the Los Angeles Wave’s coverage.

Green Advocate Empowered: Mayor Villaraigosa has appointed Green L.A. head Jonathan Parfrey to the 5-member Department of Water Power Commission. Parfrey is a friend of mine, the executive director of Green L.A. Coalition, and a committed and knowledgable environmentalist. Read the LA Times’ blog.

Land Swap Troubled: Remember that Long Beach land swap (Creek Freak coverage here) that preserves the Los Cerritos wetlands? Well, the down economy is impacting it, and the developer is looking to back out. Read Long Beach Press Telegram coverage.

Trout Passage Bridged: Though the fish apparently like it, some Malibu residents are unhappy with the reworking of the Solstice Creek Bridge. Read The Malibu Times’ coverage.

San Gabriel Fished: A new Urban Fly Fishing blog tells us the sweet fishing spots on the San Gabriel River.

Economic Stimulus Greened: In this LA Times editorial, TreePeople’s founder Andy Lipkis urges us to make sure that the federal economic stimulus infrastructure projects are smart and green.

Blue is Green: This New York Times blog proclaims that “blue is the new green” and has some beautiful images of green roofs and walls, water harvesting and gray water.
Río* from B a s t a r d i l l a on Vimeo.

Río Bogota Blues-ed: This video from the band Aterciopelados re-imagines the polluted urban Río Bogota. It’s full of beautiful animated drawings by the grafitti artist Bastardilla. (Thanks to correspondent Federico via the Wooster Collective blog.)

and, lastly, an annoucement:

Creek Freak wants you! If you’re interested in volunteering to help LA Creek Freak get the word out about LA’s worthwhile waters, let us know. We’re looking for guest bloggers that can cover subjects that Jessica and I can’t get to. Also, much needed are photographers! If you can let us use your existing river images, or can go out and photograph sites that we’re writing about, let us know. Email us at lacreekfreak {at} gmail . com!

Of Nexus and Navigability, Part 3: The Boater, the Biologist, and the Blogs

December 1, 2008 § 2 Comments

Prologue

Creek Freak continues our exhausting alliterative four part series on the navigability rippling through the waters of the mighty Los Angeles:

Part 1 – Of Nexus and Navigability, a lament for our waterways
Part 2 – Journalistic Journeys
Part 3 – The Boater, the Biologist, and the Blogs
Part 4 – Action Alert

Of Nexus and Navigability – Part 3, The Boater, the Biologist and the Blogs

By way of background, federal waterway protections are being weakened through recent governmental decisions.  For the federal Clean Water Act to protect a river, creek or stream, it must be a “traditionally navigable waterway” or have a “significant nexus” to one.  See Part 1 for more detailed background and historical accounts of boatingSee Part 2 for some 20th century accounts of boating. And this blog is where we bring boating into the present day.

A couple years ago, while I was working at Friends of the Los Angeles River (FoLAR), I got an email from George Wolfe who runs the Lala Times – a website mostly humor/parody site that bills itself as “California satire, wierd and bizarre news.”  I have to confess that, at first, I mistakenly thought that I had been contacted by the LA Times and was always quick to respond to media requests.  I soon spoke with George, a boater (who kayaks and canoes) with a idea to do a big expedition down the Los Angeles River.

George and I kept in touch.  At one of our lunches discussing possible expedition parameters, he pulled out the most raggedly well-used copy of my book that I’d ever seen.  He’d done a lot of advance scouting and even some negotiations with the County Flood Control District and the Army Corps. of Enginneer to  permit the trip.  The date was set for July 25th-27th 2008.

I met up with George for a trial run a week ahead of the expedition.  We put in just below the Los Feliz Boulevard Bridge and kayaked down to the best rapid on the whole river, just below Marsh Park in Frogtown.  Under the tutelage of FoLAR’s Denis Schure, I had been in a kayak a couple of times briefly in a calm nearly-currentless stretch of the Los Angeles, adjacent to Balboa Boulevard in the Sepulveda Basin.  After kayaking that sweet well-flowing natural stretch with George, I was excited and hooked at how fun it was!  I was disappointed in myself that I had been around the river all these years and hadn’t boated there often.

The three-day expedition was a blast.  You can read my blog account of it here: Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.  There is a fair amount of documentation now online, including this recent trailer for a planned documentary feature about the trip:

Army Corps of Engineers biologist Heather Wylie accompanied the second day of the trip.  She was later threatened with a 90-day unpaid suspension from work for participating.  It turns out that her superiors didn’t know of her participation until they saw this photo of her posted on the LAist blog. Some links to her story are available here and an excellent editorial she wrote is linked here.  Check out this short video where she tells you some of her stories: 

The kayak expedition, in addition to being lots of fun and a great workout, proved to me personally that the vast majority of the Los Angeles is indeed very navigable.  There are a few spots that required some portaging, mostly in the San Fernando Valley, but certainly all the way from the 134 Freeway downstream to Long Beach are easily kayaked any day of the year.  Contrast this with the Army Corps of Engineers’ designation of only two short stretches (in the Sepulveda Basin and in Long Beach) as navigable.  We’ve still got a long way to go in convincing our public agencies to respect the Los Angeles River.

Next: Part 4 – Action Alert – wherein you, the reader, take action on assuring federal protections for western waters. **12/3/2008 – Correction: this is an important meeting that’s still happening – but it’s not about navigability.  Navigability meeting is a different one planned for December 16th – more info about that soon!   Also, plan to attend the city of Los Angeles’ public meeting this Thursday night from 5:30pm to 8:30pm at the Metropolitan Water District in downtown Los Angeles.  The meeting will include a presentation on and an opportunity to comment on the navigability issues.

Of Nexus and Navigability, Part 2: Journalistic Journeys

December 1, 2008 § Leave a comment

Prologue

Los Angeles River navigation is a critical issue right now! It’s not just about defiant kayakers, but about ensuring federal waterway protections prevent all our waterways from further degredation. Jessica has already done one post on this, but now Creek Freak is expanding our coverage into a four part series.  If you’re not already familiar with this issue, you might want to go back and read Part 1 before reading this entry.

Part 1 – Of Nexus and Navigability, a lament for our waterways
Part 2 – Journalistic Journeys
Part 3 – The Boater, the Biologist, and the Blogs
Part 4 – Action Alert

Of Nexus and Navigability – Part 2, Journalistic Journeys

The reason that navigation is important today is due to legal wrangling over interpretations of the federal Clean Water Act and which waterways are deemed important enough to receive federal protection. For an explanation of the navigability issue, see Part 1, in which Jessica’s fills in the background and boating’s early history. Her account covers the historical records from the 1800’s.

This blog shares some 20th century journalistic forays into Los Angeles River boating. Though these accounts do offer evidence that the river is navigable, the overall tone of the articles are rather mocking – as in how big a surprise it is that anyone would be boating on such a river. See Part 3, and bringing the situation up to the present date with some wrap-up coverage of the recent kayak trips and recent developments regarding official determinations regarding whether the river is navigable or not.

Los Angeles Times boaters xxxx

April 1st 1925 Los Angeles Times Los Angeles River boating article with "Pictorial Evidence Presented to Skeptical Public.

On April 1st 1925, the Los Angeles Times ran an article entitled Scribe on Wonderful Trip: Cruises the Los Angeles from Griffith Park to Seventh Street Bridge; Skipper Admires Nature by Otis M. Wiles. In a very joking tone, the article tells the story of the intrepid correspondent and Skipper Ed’s journey in the good ship Mud Hen. Some excerpts:

“The Times exploration party set forth in a makeshift craft at eventide yesterday to explore the mystic splendors of our much-maligned river and prove to the world that it’s navigable.”

The journey through the Glendale Narrows sounds fairly nice. The article describes “tall green bullrushes” and “a staircase rapid resembling Angel’s Flight.” The river through downtown wasn’t quite as nice. The boaters encounter “several hobo camps” along the “wooded river bank.” Near the present day 101 Freeway, they pass “a city dump reeking with garbage smells … The dump was afire, clear to the water’s edge.”

“Your intrepid correspondent dumped the water out of his boots and came ashore, thoroughly satisfied that the Los Angeles River has been grossly wronged and maligned. It has water in it, contrary to all reports otherwise – wet water, cold water and muddy water. And it can be navigated. from Griffith Park to the Seventh-street bridge at least, in a seaworthy duck-boat if fortune favors the navigator in ducking rocks, bridges, sharp curves and railroad ties and sewer drains.”

Herald Examiner Boaters in 1938

Herald Express Reporters Boating the Los Angeles River in 1938

In March 1938, Los Angeles was hit with the worst floods on record. These were likely not the highest volume floods, but serious floods paired with increased development of the flood plains, resulted in widespread destruction. According to Blake Gumprecht, the 1938 floods caused eighty-seven deaths, and more than $78 million in damage, including washing out many buildings and bridges. As the floodwaters were beginning to recede, the Los Angeles Herald Express’ “Foghorn” Eldridge and “Wharf Rat” Watson (actually reporter Fred Eldridge and photographer Coy Watson, Jr) attempted a boating expedition from just below the Glendale Hyperion Viaduct (in Atwater Village) to the river’s mouth in Long Beach. Similar to the 1925 Times article above, their accounts mockingly echo adventure writing of their day. They didn’t quite get to Long Beach, but made it only about a half-dozen miles to take out in downtown Los Angeles. Photo above courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library Herald Examiner Collection. Additional expedition photos are available there and in Arcadia Publishing Images of America series book Los Angeles River by Ted Elrick and the Friends of the Los Angeles River.

LA Times blah blah blah

March 2nd 1958 Los Angeles Times Los Angeles River Boating Expedition Coverage

A later descent is chronicled in a March 2 1958 Los Angeles Times article Timesmen Explore Los Angeles River by Charles Hillinger. This tells the story of the reporter and cameraman who, in a 5-man inflatable boat, paddle bravely exploring the Army Corps of Engineers’ newly-completed concrete structures.

The Timesmen have difficulty putting in at the start of the river proper, behind Canoga Park High School. “Too shallow.”

They make their way downstream before putting in at a vague location: “Finally, in the heart of the city, we launched our boat.” From a later description that they took out around Firestone Boulevard after traveling “10 miles in five hours,” their put-in spot was likely near the Arroyo Seco confluence.

Boating down the concrete river, they describe “Deep water – a foot and a half – and we floated down the stream at a fair clip.” They run into issues in Vernon where “[m]ud and rocks dammed the main middle stream.” They walk and boat further until giving up around the Rio Hondo confluence where they give up “bogged down on sandbars, hiking through knee-deep mud.”

The pair rounds out their exploration by driving along the river. They describe visits to Sepulveda Dam, the east San Fernando Valley, and the Headworks Spreading Grounds.

In 1999 the LA Weekly ran a cover story Taming the Wild Trickle: A Gray-Water Adventure on the Mighty L.A. by Steve Chapple. Chapple, who kayaks the Yellowstone and the Zambesi, teamed up with Friends of the Los Angeles River’s longtime boater Denis Schure to make 3-day descent of the Los Angeles River from Reseda to Long Beach. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“This wasn’t white water, anyway. It was more like gray water. But runnable. Let me emphasize that. There was enough flow in the Los Angeles River from recent rains to make an experimental first descent possible, yet not so much that we would have to worry about Ralphs shopping carts tumbling end over end in the rainy-season roil and whacking us upside the head. This was a historic moment.”

“We rounded a bend and there stood the Glendale Freeway, crossing the Santa Ana. It was a stunning architectural tableau, Frank Lloyd Wright meets the slime. Arching steel. Pounding concrete. Below, the river concentrated itself in a new center slot that looked fast and deep. We positioned the canoe. Soon we were rodding along at maybe 10 mph before paddling (the paddles had paddles now), but the groove was unexpectedly shallow, all of 18 inches. Though I was distressed, yet again, to have been talked out of my beautiful touring kayak, I contained my cheap-thrill-seeker’s anger: For this was the place where Los Angeles began, a place of reverence. We paddled into the confluence with the Arroyo Seco, site of the original L.A. pueblo, now an unmarked graffiti hole.”

Earlier this year, the US Army Corps. of Engineers only designated two stretches as “traditionally navigable waterways.” These two stretches were: 1) the estuary below Willow Street in Long Beach and 2) the Sepulveda Basin. While none of the articles above describes every inch of the river as navigable, they do record journalists boating in stretches that the Army Corps hasn’t designated as navigable.

Next: Part 3 – The Boater, the Biologist, and the Blogs

For Your Viewing Pleasure: Turtles, Ballona Bikes, Dorothy Green and more!

October 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Here are some on-line videos that all us creek freaks might enjoy:

>Los Angeles Times account of Aquarium of the Pacific’s healing and release of an injured San Gabriel River sea turtle (Great video – with fascinating x-rays of broken turtle flipper bones. Kudos to the great work of the Aquarium of the Pacific staff and the Times’ Louis Sahagun. There are also sea lions in the San Gabriel River.)

>KTLA news coverage of Ballona Creek Bike Path issues (via LA Streetsblog, includes Ballona Creek Renaissance’s Jim Lamm)

>Dorothy Green with Creek Freak bloggers (Jessica and Joe) talking with Los Angeles City Councilmember Ed Reyes on the city’s L.A. River Report public information channel

>Hook TV on How to fish for carp in the Los Angeles River

>Jeffrey Tipton’s Montage on the July 2008 Los Angeles River Boating Expedition organized by George Wolfe (Coming soon: an actual high production value trailer about this expedition. Also, check out George’s kayak commute video.)

>A group I don’t know about called LA River Story has done a somewhat accurate trio of documentaries beginning with San Fernando Valley tributaries: The Great Wall of Los Angeles Mural on the Tujunga Wash, the adjacent Tujunga Wash Greenway, and what they’re calling the beginning of the river in Chatsworth.

>Turn Here’s Down by the (L.A.) River (How many errors can you spot in Creek Freak Joe Linton’s brief appearance? Be grateful that I don’t plan to blog on restaurant recommendations any time soon.)

>Meeting of Styles Graffiti Murals Event (These murals were later painted out)

>Insidious Bliss (A bleak and beautiful documentary on crystal meth addiction and homelessness in the Glendale Narrows stretch of the L. A. River)

and lastly a couple of not entirely successful attempts at Los Angeles River Humor:

>Stewart Paap in search of the LA River (“Easy access, huh?”)

>Deep Sea Fishing in Studio City (My favorite part of this are the outtakes and the brief scene where the actor steps around the construction fence – I plan to blog soon about my frustration that the city of Los Angeles’ Studio City Riverwalk has been fenced off for more than a year.)

Recent News, Upcoming Events 2008 October 8

October 8, 2008 § Leave a comment

An occasional round up of the very creekinest items that come across my virtual desk:

Use a Kayak, Lose your Job: On October 8th the San Jose Mercury News reported that Army Corps of Engineers biologist Heather Wylie is threatened with a 30-day suspension because she participated in the recent Los Angeles River kayak expedition. “Her supervisors found out about it when they saw a photo of her on the kayak trip on the Internet, according to the notice of proposed suspension letter.” (Note that Creek Freak was jealous that the less-than-100-pound Wylie navigated the river so much more easily than I, who frequently scraped concrete bottom. Creek Freak’s trip blog here: day one, two and three.)  *UPDATE Additional Links:  Army Corps Suspension Letter (pdf) Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) legal response letter (pdf) LAist Photo of Wylie from July 2008 LA River trip

“We have enough to live on, but not enough to waste”: On October 8th, the Los Angeles Times ran this editorial by Dorothy Green calling for sane and sustainable water policy. (Thanks Aquafornia)

Calabasas’ Award for Concrete Removal: On October 2nd, the Acorn reported that the city of Calabasas’ Las Virgenes Creek Restoration Project was honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers Metro Los Angeles Branch. Read about the project here.

Say It Ain’s So: On September 29th Blogdowntown reported that studies show that the 6th Street Bridge will need to be replaced. This 1931 bridge is magnificent. Creek Freek fears that city proposals to widen it into a mini-freeway will be a travesty. I hope to blog about this sometime soon.

Upcoming Events:

The city of LA’s Stream Protection public meetings continue, Friday October 10th (1:30pm at City Hall) and October 17th (7pm at the Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center in Van Nuys.) It’s important that environmentalists attend!

L.A. Unfolded: Maps from the Los Angeles Public Library opens at the Downtown Los Angeles Central Library’s Getty Gallery next week. Rumored to have some incredible old maps of the Los Angeles River, the exhibition will be on display from October 15th through January 22nd 2009.

The Venice Neighborhood Council, Heal The Bay, Santa Monica Baykeeper and others host a State of Our Ocean Town Hall Meeting – Thursday October 23rd at 6pm at Westminster Avenue School, 1010 Abbot Kinney Blvd in Venice.

Bike Ballona on October 25th

Bike Ballona on October 25th

Concerned Bicyclists of the Ballona Creek host the inagural Tour de Ballona on Saturday October 25th departing at 11am at the Culver/Sawtelle entry to the Ballona Creek bikeway. CBoB came together to make the Ballona Creek bike path safer.

Jenny Price leads Friends of the LA River’s river tours: Sunday October 26th and Sunday December 7th. The December tour starts in Long Beach and marks FoLAR’s initial regular tour of the Lower Los Angeles River.

Join LA City Council President Eric Garcetti for A Day at the River – Saturday November 8th from 9-11:30am at Crystal Street Bicycle Park in Frogtown.

Urban Photo Adventures hosts Unexposed: the Los Angeles River photography tour on Saturday and Sunday November 8th and 9th. More of their great photos here.

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