The concrete lined channel of the Los Angeles River has been making appearances in movies for decades. Most famously from the truck/motorcycle chase scene in ‘Terminator 2’, it’s been a reliable stand-in for something between a generic urban wasteland (at best!) and a dystopian hellscape. The trickle of water flowing through and the lack of nature would make you think the inclusion of “River” in the name is some sort of joke.
But it wasn’t always like this! The 51 mile waterway, stretching from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley, was once a vibrant artery of an earlier LA; teeming with fish and a draw for wildlife, shaded by trees and a freshwater source for the surrounding communities. It was converted to a storm-drain in the 1930’s by the US government and has been a mostly neglected eyesore since.
There’s a movement to restore the natural state of the river and the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) is the organization behind it. They’ve worked 30+ years to bring back life to the river and have made great strides recently along with increased attention and federal funding of development projects. Take a walk along the river and you'll notice pockets of life and a hint of what's possible as it partially returns to a natural state.
FOLAR has helped develop recreational activities along the river’s banks - such as bike paths and kayaking - and been instrumental in converting industrial zones into parks and promoting legislation that would open up the river to the public. Their website is full of resources on how to experience and enjoy the river. Bringing the river back to life is a movement we can get behind.
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