People have for many years found their way to the L.A. River, but for the first time in decades, activities such as kayaking and fishing are now legal along the waterway.
City officials celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony Monday morning at Marsh Park, which borders the river in Elysian Valley, not far from Dodger Stadium. The 2.5 mile route now open to the public goes from Fletcher Drive to Steelhead Park. Officials are calling it a "recreation zone" that will be open as a pilot program until Labor Day.
"It's been since the '30s when someone could come and legally recreate in the river," said Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Conservancy, as he hosted the day's events. "It's not just a concrete alley."
Patrick Caneday biked down from Burbank to watch the ceremony and check out the kayaking. He works at Disney and uses the L.A. River bike trail regularly. He's a fan of city efforts to revitalize the waterway.
"This sort of stuff's neat when you see more people down here," Caneday said. "But with more people comes more traffic, so maybe they need to designate a walking lane and a biking lane instead of everybody sharing it."
Newly-elected City Councilman Mitch O'Farrell, whose District 13 includes this area, also had a request: move some of the rocks. O'Farrell woke up early to kayak the river with community members and took a spill. He said everyone in the group got wet, and that some portions along the river were too rocky to navigate.
"There are smooth spots where you're just coasting along and then there are rapids," O'Farrell said, describing his morning adventure that involved fighting off shrubs, and at some point getting out and dragging the kayak through areas that were too shallow to float.
"My main goal was to not let my kayak get away from me," O'Farrell said with a laugh. "I managed to do that."
Members of the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority bike patrol also attended the event. They'll be helping to ensure safety along the new route. The organization partnered with the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Flood Control District, the Army Corps of Engineers and other community groups to help open the new recreation zone.
Kayaking has been previously allowed on the Sepulveda Basin area of the river by permit. The recreation zone launched today does not require a permit and is open to anyone with a kayak. Fishing is now allowed via permits from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. For more information on how to enjoy the river's new recreation zone, visit LARiverRecreation.org.
Graphic courtesy of Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority