Besides hiking and biking the L.A. River, and maybe spotting some birds, you might want to get involved in its future. Clean it. Green it. Send your George W. tax cut to the folks who are fighting for it. Here’s the who, what, where:
Arroyo Seco Collaborative, www.lariver.oxy.edu, (323) 259-2991
Arroyo Seco Foundation, www.arroyoseco.org, (626) 577-6000
California Coastal Conservancy, www.coastalconservancy.ca.gov, (510) 286-1015
Chinatown Yard Alliance, (323) 660-6683
Coalition for a State Park at Taylor Yard, www.tayloryard.org, (323) 692-7763
Friends of the Los Angeles River, www.folar.org, (323) 223-0585
L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, www.labikecoalition.org, (213) 629-2142
L.A. County Department of Public Works, dpw.co.la.ca.us, (626) 458-5100
Los Angeles River Center and Gardens, www.smmc.ca.gov, (323) 221-9939
Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, (310) 589-3230
North East Trees, www.northeasttrees.org, (323) 441-8634
San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, www.rmc.ca.gov, (626) 458-4315
Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, www.smmc.ca.gov, (323) 221-8900
Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), www.sparcmurals.org, (310) 822-9560
The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, www.lasgrwc.org, (213) 367-4111
The River Project, www.theriverproject.org, (818) 980-9660
TreePeople, www.treepeople.org, (818) 753-4600
The Trust for Public Land, www.tpl.org, (310) 474-4466
Village Gardeners of the Los Angeles River, (818) 981-1606
The Wrigley Association, (562) 595-5650
“Down by the River” walks hosted by Friends of the Los Angeles River: These free, nonstrenuous Sunday walks are open to all ages and last about 90 minutes. Speakers give the lowdown on the nature, history, politics and art of the river. August 19, check out the Cornfield and learn about plans for the abandoned riverside rail yard. September 16, see what’s happening at the Maywood Riverfront Park. November 18, tour Taylor Yard, slated to become a state park with hardcore wetlands restoration. Call (213) 381-3570, or visit www.folar.org. For the river walk newsletter, e-mail email@example.com.
Elysian Park Tours, part of the Historic Echo Park walking tours program, is offering river tours in the park September 8 and December 8, starting at 10 a.m. Two-hour tours cover everything from previously existing dams to the complex underground pipes that route water back into the drinking system. Only 20 slots are available per tour — reservations suggested. $3 donation; under 12 years free. (213) 482-4458.
Start training for the L.A. County Bicycle Coalition’s huge second annual Los Angeles River Ride next May. Hundreds bike along the river to raise public awareness and money ($10,000 this year) to ensure the completion of the L.A. River Bikeway from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. Rides of different lengths accommodate bikers of all levels. Contact LACBC at (213) 629-2142 or www.labikecoalition.org.
L.A. County Bicycle Coalition, North East Trees and FoLAR sponsor quarterly bike rides. These two- to three-hour nonstrenuous rides along the scenic Glendale Narrows are open to all ages. Next ride, October 14 at 10 a.m. Meet at the L.A. River Center and Gardens, 570 W. Avenue 26. Call NET for more info, (323) 441-8634.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Binoculars): The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society leads free bird walks in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area on the second Saturday of each month, October through March. On August 11, the society will host a Family Flashlight Walk in the Sepulveda Basin. Pack flashlights and the kids. Contact Muriel Kotin at (818) 783-4293 for more info. Kris Ohlenkamp leads another Audubon bird walk in the Sepulveda Basin the first Sunday of every month. Call Ohlenkamp at (818) 894-9332.
In May, the Friends of the Los Angeles River held the 12th annual Great Los Angeles River Clean-Up, or La Gran Limpieza. A thousand volunteers showed up for the two-day event and cleaned up more than 20 tons of trash. Live music, fresh food and the occasional celebrity appearance make for good clean fun. Look for it again next spring.
The Friends of Atwater Village hold several river cleanups each year in Atwater. The next will be in early October. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
The San Fernando Valley Audubon Society sponsors a spring cleanup in the Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Area to clear out trash and other debris brought by winter storms. Call Muriel Kotin, (818) 783-4293.
The Village Gardeners are holding planting, weeding and cleanup parties in Sherman Oaks October 6 and November 4. Schools, groups and individuals are all invited. Call (818) 981-1606 for more information.
Help the Glendale Narrows and Arroyo Seco go green. Join North East Trees for regular tree planting events along the river. Call NET’s hotline, (323) 441-8634, or e-mail email@example.com.
RiverWatch runs a first-rate volunteer program to produce the first comprehensive community-oriented report on the health of the L.A. River watershed. A core group of 60 volunteers work in teams to do everything from analyzing toxic pollutants to assessing the biological status of the river. An amazing program sponsored by FoLAR. Call (213) 925-5274, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST . . .
The Arroyo Seco Collaborative has been working on a number of watershed and community-development projects. The big one: an ambitious plan to shut down the 110 freeway in October 2002 to celebrate the Arroyo Seco Parkway. Keep updated on lectures and other events at www.lariver.oxy.edu, or call (323) 259-2991.
SURF THE RIVER
The Web is crawling with sites dedicated to the L.A. River. Here are a few of the best jumping-off points:
groups.yahoo.com/group/la-river-discuss. The is the bulletin board for everyone active on the river. View it on the Web or subscribe by sending a blank e-mail to email@example.com.
www.deliriousla.net/lariver/index.htm. An elegant “Web exhibit,” this site, by L.A. architect Alan Loomis, provides the “past, present, and possibilities” of the river’s watershed and urban design.
www.lalc.k12.ca.us/target/units/river/riverweb.html. This “Los Angeles River Connection” site was built primarily by Kurt Ballash, the technology coordinator at Jefferson High School. The site is packed with info and contacts, as well as pages designed by LAUSD elementary school students. A “virtual tour” of photos and facts spans the length of the river.
www.3dsite.com/people/erco/fovicks. Greg Ercolano loves the bizarre concrete structures of the L.A. River just as they are! He’s created a Web site for FOVICKS, or “Friends of Vast Industrial Concrete Kafkaesque Structures,” that humorously, and educationally, portrays the manmade river from headwaters to harbor.
You’ve seen the river’s concrete cameos in countless Hollywood films (usually as a post-apocalyptic ruin). Now experience the reality of the river in television programs and documentaries that delve into the day-to-day details.
Gerard Dawson’s Something Resembling a River (1997). This insightful documentary puts a camera on those whose lives are intertwined with the river: emergency flood-control operators, homeless men in their riverside camps, a young fisherman, and even an interview with “cat-man” artist Leo Limon. You can rent it for free at Video Journeys in Silver Lake, or, if you e-mail Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org, he will send you a copy at cost.
Huell Howser visited the river periodically in his “Visiting . . . with Huell Howser” program on KCET. In Episode 218, “L.A. River,” he explores the river in its entirety. Episodes 122 and 322 both feature the late Ernie LaMere, who planted river gardens long before it was fashionable. Episodes 304 and 305 examine the river’s role as a flood-control system. Howser looks at the history of the Zanja Madre, or the “mother ditch” of the original settlers’ irrigation system, in Episode 901. Call (800) 266-5727 to order videotapes.
52 Miles of Concrete is an experimental digital video film cut together with stark black-and-white images of the L.A. River and set to an eerie score. The masterminds are Mark Steger and Hannah Sim, the L.A. artist duo known as the founders and directors of osseus labyrint. Watch on the Web at www.spyworm.com.
LOOK AT IT
A small but growing community of artists are envisioning the river’s possibilities — its usefulness and symbolism, its past and future, its role as urban oddity and Hollywood celebrity, its danger and beauty.
On the Wall:
Arroyo Arts Collective River Alchemy 2002 will be a weekend exhibition of site-specific installations made from salvaged river debris. The collective will be inviting artists and sending out a call for entries. Curators include poet and Friends of the L.A. River founder Lewis MacAdams, artist Tran T. Kim-Trang and artist Nancy Buchanan. Last year’s River Visions 2000, an exhibit of photographs, installations, documentation and video put together by the Collective, Occidental College and FoLAR, spanned a two-and-a-half-mile stretch between Riverside Drive and Fletcher Avenue. Nearly 50 artists spoke about the river’s history from the time of the Tongva, the first Angelenos, to the present. They displayed sculptures in the shape of penguins, floating faucets, water spirits, naiads and dryads, made from steel or driftwood or rocks or plastic or the existing flora itself. Artist Silvana Tei Kenney launched a small boat made of beeswax, filled with passionflowers, sculpted hummingbirds and birdseed. Write the Collective at P.O. Box 50835, L.A., CA 90050-0835 for a River Visions 2000 catalog, or call (323) 221-3225 or (323) 850-8566.
Gateway Transit Center Tours: Volunteer docents for the Metropolitan Transit Authority lead two-hour tours of public art at the center. Groups of 15 or more can call (213) 922-4ART to schedule a 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. tour on the first Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Sunday of the month, or the third Tuesday or Wednesday of the month. Requests must be made a minimum of three weeks in advance. Transit-center art is posted on www.mta.net/metroart.
John Humble’s serene photos of the river, its waters still and glasslike, in hues so deep and saturated you want to lick them, are on view in “The L.A. River Project,” at the Jan Kesner Gallery, 164 N. La Brea Ave., October 25–December 1. Call (323) 938-6834 for hours.
“Post-Landscape: Between Nature and Culture,” an exhibit of mostly SoCal artists, will include river photos by Wanda Hammerbeck. At the Pomona College Museum of Art, in the Montgomery Art Center, 330 N. College Way, Claremont, September 4–October 21. Call (909) 621-8283; www.pomona.edu/museum.
“Rio L.A.: Tales from the Los Angeles River.” This photography exhibit accompanies Mark Lamonica’s book of the same name. July 21–August 21 at the Michael Dawson Gallery, 535 N. Larchmont Ave.; (323) 469-2186.
Stephanie Sanchez’s solo show of plein-air oil paintings includes a view of the river. November 10–December 15, at Terrence Rogers Fine Art, 1231 Fifth St., Santa Monica; (310) 394-4999.
Water Works, a three-gallery show on water issues in the Southland and beyond, includes river photographs by Jacques Garnier and Douglas McCulloh. September 22–November 3 at BC Space Gallery, 235 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-1880; Cypress College Photography Galleries, 9200 Valley View, Cypress, (714) 484-7443; Gallery 224, 224 Forest Ave., Laguna Beach, (949) 494-5757.
Off the Wall:
Stephen Callis’ black-and-white cityscapes capture people on the river — walking, fishing, washing clothes. His photographs appear in Blake Gumprecht’s book Los Angeles River; “Laundry Day,” a shot of the river and the Fourth Street bridge, is the cover image. View a selection at www.moorpark.cc.ca.us/~scallis/lariver.
Olafur Eliasson photographed the river after pouring in nontoxic, biodegradable, neon-green dye — the same used to chart ocean currents — on July 4, 1998, as part of his “The green river” series (he’s also dyed and documented rivers in Iceland, Sweden and Germany). He’s shown in L.A. at Marc Foxx gallery, 6150 Wilshire Blvd.; (323) 857-5571.
“Great Wall of L.A.,” a half-mile mural along the Tujunga Wash flood-control channel in the San Fernando Valley created in the late ’70s to early ’80s by hundreds of people — many of whom were gang members and at-risk teenagers — is digitized along with other murals at www.lamurals.org and www.sparcmurals.org.
Wanda Hammerbeck’s photographs are collected in Arid Waters (University of Nevada Press), A River Too Far (University of Nevada Press) and Western Waters (Spencer Art Museum, University of Kansas).
Douglas Hill’s photographs of the river’s bridges can be viewed at www.doughill.com.
Susan Lutz Stereo View Company produces 3-D stereoscopic images of the Los Angeles River. Contact Lutz’s staff at https://www.americanhomebody.com/lutz3d/ to view the full collection of “Stereoscopic Views of the Los Angeles Basin.”
A man on a white horse in the channel in south L.A.? Photographer Douglas McCulloh’s book Chance Encounters: The L.A. Project (PRESS???) includes river photos at sites chosen by chance. “The project’s core,” we’re told, “is the Surrealist idea that chance can liberate us from the limitations of preconception, intention and self.” View them online at the California Museum of Photography site, https://www.cmp.ucr.edu/site/exhibitions/chance/interface.html.
Gary McGuire’s book in progress, The Waiting River Los Angeles, takes the reader on a narrative journey. McGuire, who teaches photography at Pasadena Art Center, explores “the symbolic importance of the Los Angeles River” in text and photographs in a journal format, a short excerpt of which appears at www.mcguiregm.com.
Barrie Mottishaw’s obsession with “intersections,” of power lines and fields, of mountain ranges and housing tracts, of “present-day landscapes” and “19th-century notions of a view,” includes oil and watercolor landscapes of the L.A. River. Her paintings can be seen at www.netropolitan.org (“Museum Without Walls”) through August.
Ever notice how the water tumbling into a storm drain catches the sunlight? See Barbara Horosko Nichols’ mixed-media series on the river at www.angelfire.com/ca6/bhnartist.
Richard Risemberg’s black-and-white photo essay “Imprisoned Rivers” finds unexpected instances of elegance and stark beauty in a river he calls “shackled,” “trammeled and insulted.” At www.living-room.org/sustain/impriv.htm.
Deidra Walpole photographs the Sepulveda Basin and Glendale Narrows. On view at https://www.deidrawalpole.com.
Hiro Yamagata’s public installation “Sculpture of Light, Los Angeles River” at First Street Bridge, October 1998, “flooded” a one-mile stretch of the river with red, blue, pink, orange and green lasers. It’s documented at www.hiroyamagata.com/projects/lar/default.html.
READ ABOUT IT
The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth, by Blake Gumprecht (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999). The bible for the river’s history to the late 1990s.
Rio L.A.: Tales from the Los Angeles River, by L.A. Times columnist Patt Morrison, with lush images by photographer Mark Lamonica (Angel City Press, 2001).
Eden by Design: The 1930 Olmsted-Bartholomew Plan for the Los Angeles Region, edited and introduced by Greg Hise and William Deverell (University of California Press, 2000). The plan is a glimpse of what might have been.
Los Angeles River Master Plan (1996). L.A. County’s official plan, available at public library branches.
Recreating the River: A Prescription for Los Angeles (Southern California Institute of Architecture, 1990). SCI-Arc envisions an ambitious redesign of Los Angeles communities — human and ecological — centered around the river.
Visions of the River: A Selected Bibliography on the Los Angeles River’s History and Possible Transformations, prepared by Susan Oppenheimer. View this online list of books and magazine and newspaper sources at www.lapl.org/admin/rivbib.html.
The River: Books One and Two, by Lewis MacAdams (Blue Press, 1998). The lines set in bronze at the entrance to Rattlesnake Park are from Book One: “I wish you would/walk with me here/more often — /red wing blackbirds/nesting in the cat-tails,/electricity humming/in the high-tension lines.”
Verses From the Poet to the River of Los Angeles Porciuncula, by Los Angeles native L.A. Murillo (self-published limited edition, 1990). A slim volume of verse.
The Los Angeles River: River Inside a River, by Cheri Gaulke with Susan Boyle and students from Woodrow Wilson High School (1991). A handmade book about what artist Gaulke, teacher Boyle and their students discovered on the river. Available at Moonlight Designs, https://www.primenet.com/~moonlght/artbkspage.html. A 15-minute video of the project is also available by calling Gaulke at (323) 662-3940.
The Biota of the Los Angeles River: An Overview of the Historical and Present Plant and Animal Life of the Los Angeles River Drainage, edited by Kimball L. Garrett (1993). A survey of the river’s flora and fauna, spearheaded by the L.A. County Natural History Museum. For those with a seriously scholarly bent.
Stormwater: Asset Not Liability and Beneficial Uses of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers (The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, 1999). Booklets on stormwater and watershed management in Los Angeles that discuss alternatives for the future and ways to use the Clean Water Act.
The Concrete River, a novel by John Shannon (JBBooks, 1996). Jack Liffey, Culver City private eye, discovers the body of a Latina activist in an L.A. River storm drain. Mystery. Mayhem. Murder. Moisture?
Environmentalism Unbound: Exploring New Pathways for Change, by Robert Gottlieb (MIT Press, 2001). Gottlieb, a professor at Occidental College, uses Los Angeles case studies to re-center environmentalism on urban areas and connect it to issues of community and social justice. He is the driving force behind the current “Re-Envisioning the Arroyo Seco” and past “Re-Envisioning the L.A. River” yearlong programs.
Water and Power: The Conflict Over Los Angeles’ Water Supply in the Owens Valley, by William L. Kahrl (University of California Press, 1983). In 1913, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power constructed an aqueduct from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. DWP eventually acquired over 200,000 acres of land in the Owens Valley in order to secure the water rights to fill the aqueduct. Kahrl’s now-famous account of the conflict between Owens Valley residents and the DWP details the controversial tactics used to acquire land and water rights.@LA
Sara Clinehens and Max Bach contributed to this directory.