Bridge construction to limit L.A. River recreation zone

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.


  1. They just now found out about the bridge construction? Sounds very unorganized!

  2. what is it with people and their dogs??? leave them at home in the yard where they belong!!!! not everyone likes dogs! we don’t want to sit next to them in a cafe, we don’t want them in the park, and we really hate to see their feces in every patch of grass…

  3. I can’t believe the issue with dogs. Banning dogs in general just seems wrong, and putting it with other banning issues under the guise that it threatens habitat. This is a man made, cemented flood way with 3 water treatment centers that drain into it. The big issue is public safety, and the biggest threats are children 18 and under who are unsupervised should also be placed on the ban list. I doubt LAPD won’t be patrolling this area until someone gets attacked.

    Items banned from Recreational Zone:
    Glass containers
    Dogs or pets
    Open fires

    I would bring me dog any way just to keep the youth away who are drinking, drinking from glass containers, do carry weapons, and use the river area for intimate encounters. Since doggy bag dispensaries won’t be included in the plan, maybe condom dispensers should be.

  4. This whole thing sounds like bureaucracy run amuck.

    Instead of just letting things happen, they need to employ dozens of people to regulate everything — and they don’t coordinate with one another. I don’t see there being a lot of kayaking or canoeing along what’s going to now be a VERY short stretch of river. And I think we know that folks will still walk their dogs along the river; if I still lived near there, I sure would.

    When it comes to protecting wildlife and habitat — or working well with people involved — the Army Corps of Engineers has very little credibility.

  5. Dogs are a threat to wildlife??? But not canoes and kayaks??? This whole “recreational use” idea is just insane. There is never enough water in the River during the summer for real kayaking or canoeing. Anyone who is not an expert will find it very hard not to run aground in a million different places. Thus, there will be all kinds of idiots dragging boats off of the rocks or sandbars, wading on the dangerously slimy bottom, and inevitably disturbing the birds and nesting areas which currently are out of reach of dogs and people. Fine to allow regulated access to the river bottom—for all two-and four-footed creatures—just keep off the water!

    • That’s exactly right. The idea of using the river for boating is idiotic, and this “plan” has been so poorly thought out. We need to keep dogs, people and boats away from the wildlife. And I agree with the comments about dogs off their leashes, it’s obnoxious and inconsiderate.

  6. A better solution would be to create a “dog friendly” park or area along the riverbed where dog owners/lovers can bring their pets and allow for the owners and their dogs to enjoy the river – like everyone else. Dogs on a leash would not pose a threat, and I do not get the strict policy behind this. However, if it is set in stone, dog owners should fight for an area designated for dogs/owners. We should all be able enjoy this area and continue to do so as we have been without these bureaucratic policies. Dogs without a leash – no matter how well trained – are somewhat annoying on the bike path as riders cannot predict where they will run toward and pose a threat to bike riders. Other than that, a dog on a leash poses little to no threat on the bike path nor along the riverbed. It is ridiculous that they are banning dogs on a leash.

  7. Bad idea to bring a dog to the river, many dogs love water and the current in the la river is deceptively strong.

  8. I’m a dog owner and I’m ok with the the ban. If Elysian and Debs parks are any indication, there would be a lot of dogs off-leash. Then there are people that have their poorly leash trained dog on like a 30 foot line pulling the owner around and going wherever it pleases insufficiently controlled. Do people also not train their dogs to not bark at every little animal that passes through their field of view? A barking dog on a long line would definitely be able to disrupt nesting habitat and drive wildlife away. I know that not every dog and owner is like that and if every dog and owner had a Canine Good Citizen certification I would probably feel differently. BTW, the Hollywood Dog Obedience Club has well priced training classes at Griffith Park over by the pool off Riverside.

    And that’s not even getting into the issue of defecation.

  9. The douchbags up in Elysian park who insist despite the law to walk their dogs off leash shows that a large portion of dog owners don’t give a crap about what anybody else thinks or feels on this subject. They have a righteous indignity to anybody who questions their ways. Just like the bicycle community they feel they can do anything they want yet are the loudest to speak up for their interests however anti-social those interests might be. If thought for one second that the majority dog owners would act responsibly I too would be against this ban at the river bed. BUT those who don’t think that dog are a threat to birds have no knowledge of the risks. Many dogs will destroy and eat eggs from nests and certain breeds will stop at nothing to catch birds. If dog owners acted responsibly they wouldn’t have people trying to keep them out of these public spaces. Its time the LAPD and the community step up and demand compliance with the leash laws. I have a dog and I walk my dog on a leash what the big deal!?

  10. Does anyone know how long the bridge construction project is expected to last?

  11. Which bridge project?
    Riverside Drive is going to be a while, I think Fletcher is winding down…. I know more about Riverside.

  12. The northeast side of the river is very popular with dog owners. I’ve been walking mine there for about 4 years now and yes, many people let their dogs off leash so they can romp in the water. In 4 years I’ve never had a single bad experience with other dogs or their owners. How many of the people commenting in support of the dog ban have ever actually been down to the river? How many have had a bad experience down there with dogs?

    This city is getting so unfriendly to dogs. It’s very sad.

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