What would Los Angeles look like with a bustling community along its river? Probably something like Saturday’s event at Marsh Park in Elysian Valley organized by the Northeast Los Angeles Riverfront Collaborative. The event – part family fair, part live mapping project – looked to open a dialog with communities along the L.A. River to better understand what people expect from the waterway. The riverfront in questions stretches for about 10 miles , from the Glendale 134 on the north to the 110 freeway on the south. The live mapping aspect asked bicyclists to photograph the river to show the green of the plant life, the rushing waters and the inescapable industrial aspect of the area.
“How do you go about creating an identity for these communities, which are the original suburbs of the city,” said Lupe Vela policy director, for the city’s Ad Hoc River Committee. “The next 10 years will address the issue of connecting communities to the river.”
At Saturday’s event a number of outreach programs posed their own models on what would create activity – small businesses, eco-friendly services, an art’s scene. Many inf the bicycling community champion the trails that parallel the river, but the goal is to revitalize not just the trails but also the communities, the parks and the infrastructure of a new riverfront district.
“Maybe a sense of that will be to make the river hip and not in a marketing sense, but letting people know that something is happening,” said Vela.
The event marks the beginning of a series of community engagement activities hosted by the river collaborative, which was awarded a federal Office of Sustainable Housing Communities Challenge Grant to engage the community in creating a riverfront district along the area.
“We want to hear from the neighborhoods, from the people on what they would like to see from the river in the next decade,” said George Villanueva, project coordinator with NELA RC.
“Our first event is sort of soft opening to get things going, but the following engagements will be on the policy of what it means to have a riverfront community, something economically sustainable for years to come,” said Villanueva.
Some part of the community were in attendance, with science teacher Mary Eckel from the Los Angeles River School who stood by diagrams and charts along with her students, polling people on what type of plant life and art motifs would work for the area. A mother of three picnicked in the park and admitted that this was all a nice surprise. “To see something like this is great and joyous for all of us in the neighborhood.”
Nathan Solis is a Highland Park writer and photographer. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.