Now that I’m commuting to work by bicycle almost every day, I get to ride beside the Los Angeles River for more than seven miles of my trip. The very notion of this river may elicit snickers and visions of frothing toxic flows accompanied by insufferable stenches. But it’s not so.
The river has mostly been channelized—a polite way of saying entombed in concrete. But I’m lucky enough that much of the portion I ride beside is natural bottomed, though it’s flanked by concrete—sloping or vertical—banks. Result? Trees and riparian growth that host quite a bit of avian life. I’m no birder, as you’ll be able to tell by the next sentence. But, there is quite a variety of feathered life that is there regularly, from the little birds you might see in a backyard; to ducks and things that look like oversized ducks; the ever-present urban crows; various wading birds with their long spindly legs; and seagull-like critters. I’d heard the river was quite rife with avifauna, but I had to see it to believe it.
Not everything is rosy, though. Remember, the LA river’s drainage hosts a few million people. That includes a lot of careless, heartless litterers. All that garbage ends up in the river and flows to the ocean. What is really weird is the effect of rains and the higher water they generate. A lot of the omnipresent shopping bags end up fluttering from the trees and taller reedy growth. The effect is Christmas tree-like, albeit one decorated by some demented soul, or a homeless person seeking solace.
And speaking of the homeless, a number of them have their tents, tarps, and shopping carts well situated along the LA River bike path. There are some vegetated, bushy areas along the strip that separates the path from the interstate and other roads. They are quite taciturn, never responding to greetings. Some use the shelter of bridges, and even light small fires to keep warm.
FOLAR (Friends of the Los Angeles River) conducts cleanups (a project for Homenetmen Scouts to join?) and is an advocate of revitalization. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy also has five projects on its work program that will create recreational and water-friendly areas along the 51-mile-long river. The city of LA has a master plan for it. Some progress is evident. There are small pocket parks on the west side of the river where residential areas abut the concrete banks. Many people are out on morning walks along the bike path as I ride to work. It’s great to see such usage. Unfortunately, there are also the inconsiderate (and arguably reckless) people who also bring their dogs…unleashed! I almost had a collision with one just two weeks ago. The owners insisted that it was OK, that I should have a loud horn because, you see, their three dogs like to run into the river and splash around!
The bike path’s lower southerly reaches had gotten quite degraded, particularly with tree route intrusions. It is now fixed up, with lighting soon to come and post-holes being dug for safety rails. Eventually, it will be possible to ride from the Glendale Narrows (between Glendale and Griffith Park) all the way to the ocean along the river’s bike path. It’s very good news.
The only odd thing is the absence of Armenians on foot or bicycles. I’ve only encountered someone I know once, and heard the language one other time. Considering how close the bike path is to Glendale, Hollywood, and other heavily Armenian areas, it’s somewhat surprising. Get out there and enjoy it.