Residents and officials gather around L.A. River map during recreation zone meeting.
A pilot program to open a five-mile section of the L.A. River between Atwater Village and Elysian Valley to canoeing, hiking and other recreational uses this summer will be much smaller than expected because of bridge construction and repair. In fact, the only part of the river bed to be included in the proposed The L.A. River Recreational Zone will be located south of Fletcher Drive in Elysian Valley, leaving out the Atwater and Silver Lake sections of the river, residents were informed during a recreation zone update on Saturday. Bridge construction near North Atwater Park and Fletcher Drive prompted officials to cut the proposed recreation zone to about half of its original length.
The hot topic at Saturday’s meeting, however, remained the plan to prohibit dogs-leashed or unleashed-from the riverbed.
Officials with the City of Los Angeles and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, which will help provide security and maintenance during the pilot program, said the ban on dogs, biking and other activities is intended to protect birds and other wildlife (The ban would not apply to the paths at the top of the concrete river bank). “Dogs and birds don’t mix,” said Walter Young with the conservation authority.
But Deborah Campbell, a Silver Lake resident who walks her two dogs along the river, said the prohibition on dogs is “antiquated” and noted that birds have managed to live along the river despite trash and debris and the noise and fumes of the adjacent 5 Freeway. “I have never seen destruction of habitat” because of dogs, Campbell said.
Albino Garcia of Atwater said he supports increased recreational use of the river but said he will no longer be able to take daily walks along the riverbed with his Labrador. Instead, he would have to walk his dog on the path at the top of the river bank and away from the water. “I’m for the project. It’s just that we want to enjoy doing what we have been doing every day.”
Lupe Vela, Policy Director of the Ad Hoc Committee on the L.A. River, said the prohibition on dogs and other recreation zone rules have been approved by the Army Corps. of Engineers, which has authority over the riverbed, and other county and state agencies. She doubts those agencies would want to open the riverbed to dogs. A prohibition on dogs also applies to a section of the L.A. River in the San Fernando Valley that is open to kayaking, she said.
In addition to the ban on dogs, residents who attended Saturday’s morning meeting also expressed concern about the impact of parking on neighborhood streets near river access points as well as the need for additional security during the pilot program, which would start on Memorial Day and end on Labor Day.
Vela and other officials are working to finalize plans and get City Council approval in May. Any delays might jeopardize the pilot program this summer and set back efforts to open up the river for recreational use. “If we don’t do it now, it won’t happen for two or three years,” she said.