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Stretch of the LA River now open for walking, kayaking this summer

By Hayley Fox
Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013, at 11:44AM
Mary Plummer/KPCC

A 2.5-mile stretch of the L.A. River is now open for kayaking and fishing. The recreation area will remain open until September 2.

A 2.5-mile portion of the Los Angeles River near downtown L.A. is now open for walking, boating and fishing for the first time since the 1930s.

This "pilot recreation zone," which debuted on Monday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Marsh Park in Elysian Valley, will serve as a trial run for possible revitalization efforts along the waterway.

The stretch of usable river begins at Fletcher Avenue and continues to Confluence Park, near where the 110 and 5 freeways intersect. The public can access the river for free but fishing will require a permit. Only non-motorized boats, such as kayaks, are allowed in the water.

The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority (MRCA), which has overseen much of the waterway's revitalization, say that Angelenos should leave their water-wings and inner tubes at home — as the river is peppered with rapids and can be challenging to navigate. The river usually ranges between Class I and II (easy to medium difficulty), but conditions can change quickly and there's extremely shallow portions of the L.A. River that force people to get off and carry their kayaks.

KPCC reports that newly elected City Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell — whose District 13 includes the new recreation area — was one of the first people out on the river Monday morning to try his hand at kayaking.

"There are smooth spots where you're just coasting along and then there are rapids," O'Farrell told KPCC, adding that there were also parts of the river that were rocky and covered in shrubs.

This pilot program along a small section of the river could be the start of a much larger plan. The Los Angeles Times reports that City Councilmember Ed Reyes said the recreation area should be a model for revitalization along the rest of the river.

This could have major implications for downtown L.A., especially in regards to the historic 6th Street Bridge. This 3,500-foot span, which crosses the L.A. River to connect Downtown to Boyle Heights, has become structurally unsound and is in the process of being replaced.

Final designs for the new bridge include an emphasis on developing the area underneath it and along the L.A. River. This means creating direct access to the river as well as creating playgrounds, park space and possibly even a skate park.

Councilman José Huizar, whose district includes this bridge, said he wants the new span to serve as more than just a connector between two points.

"We also want this bridge to be a destination point," said Huizar last year, adding that he hoped it would revitalize the river and contribute to economic development as well.

The newly opened Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone will be open everyday from sunrise to sunset until September 2.

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