A summer program that allows river enthusiasts to canoe, kayak and fish in the city of Los Angeles could be a step towards revitalizing the Los Angeles River.
The LA River Recreation Zone was launched Monday after the United States Army Corp of Engineers (USACE) approved two recreation zones in LA – one along the Glendale Narrows in Elysian Valley, a designated recreation zone last summer, and the other in the Sepulveda Basin.
"I grew up in Massachusetts where this kind of stuff is pretty commonplace everywhere and it’s just something you don't see it too often in LA," said LA resident Tim Faulkner, who brought his toddler son Brady along to kayak along the Glendale Narrows during the Memorial Day opening.
This 2.5-mile stretch of river north of downtown Los Angeles is not the typical concrete-lined flood control channel many think of when it comes to the Los Angeles River. This stretch has a natural unlined so-called soft bottom.
The recreation zones will be opened from sunrise to sunset through Labor Day.
Some hope that these recreation zones will help fuel revitalization of the River and redevelopment of the surrounding area.
"Change in our river has been needed for a long time," LA City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell said.
O’Farrell’s office pushed to secure and fund two recreation zones this year after a pilot program last summer in Elysian Valley.
LA city officials have been urging the United States Army Corp of Engineers to consider a $1 billion plan to revamp the Los Angeles River. Officials have offered to split the cost if the corps opts for that plan instead of the one they initially planned for – one that is approximately half the cost.
"I think it's a careful balance that we need to strike between the needs of the people and the needs of the environment," US Army Corp of Engineers representative David Vandorpe said. "While this is a great river and water resource, we have to remember it also has a flood control responsibility."
The less expensive plan would provide "parks, bike paths and other enhancements to make the river more inviting to Angelenos," according to the LA Times.
Proponents of the billion-dollar plan hope that revitalization would spur office, retail and residential development along the Los Angeles River.
A decision on the Los Angeles River revitalization plan may not come until 2015.