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Can the Los Angeles River Reclaim a Starring Role?

From its mountain tributaries, to the San Fernando Valley, through Downtown, and across the basin into the Pacific Ocean, Christian MilNeil tells the story behind the ecological and recreation rehabilitation of the Los Angeles River.
August 3, 2012, 7am PDT | Andrew Gorden
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Unarguably one of the region's most photographed and filmed landmarks, the Los Angeles River's miles of concrete-lined channels have appeared in numerous films, advertisements, and music videos. Now advocates are hoping to rehabilitate the river's post-apocalyptic appearance by tying in aspects of ecology and livability.

Christian MilNeil, writing for Grist, takes the reader on a four-part tour of the river, from its start in the mountains above the San Fernando Valley to its mouth in Long Beach. Perhaps most interesting are his comments regarding how residents and visitors to the city interact with their river, from the sprawling and busy Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area, where the unpaved river returns to its wild roots for a short stretch, to the lifeless Confluence Park in the Glassel Park neighborhood, near the tangle of highway interchange viaducts that fly over the historic confluence of the L.A. River and the Arroyo Seco.

Then there's the famed stretch just east of Downtown Los Angeles, with its art deco bridges, power lines, railroads, and near-complete isolation from the rest of the city. Here, many of the most interesting and largest plans to rehab the river are taking place. Plans include "re-wilding" the river with an unpaved bottom and lining its banks with parks and redevelopment. And though "[a]ll this sounds pretty good to sustainability advocates - and to a growing number of political leaders..., until Los Angeles embraces those broader changes...restoration efforts like the one at Tujunga Wash [in the San Fernando Valley] will end up spending more tax achieve less."

Read more about the Los Angeles River in MilNeil's four-part series in Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

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Published on Saturday, June 30, 2012 in Grist
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