Celebrating Earth Day with Hope

As we get closer to Earth Day, I’m reminded of the environment in South East LA. Our concrete cities surround an ecosystem that has been vital to the region for thousands of years. I believe the LA River can be a resource to us once again.

Upcoming projects in the LA River Master Plan --including trails, parks, and outdoor space along the River -- will have generational impacts on our communities’ health and well-being. There are also opportunities for more public art, cultural events, and art programs near the River. There are many exciting opportunities, and you can learn more about them in this issue of the R-Guide.

This Earth Day edition is all about the LA River, efforts to improve it, and how you can get involved.

Video: In 2017, my office hosted a bike ride along the LA River. I hope we can increase community and outdoor activities like this one.

LA River Plan Art Talk

Last month, my office and I partnered with the City of South Gate to host a webinar about arts and culture projects in the LA River Master Plan. My greatest hope for this plan is that the river becomes an asset to our communities. During the webinar, we heard from community art leaders -- Danaly Perez with the Latinas Art Foundation, and Dakota McMahand, Founder of Budding Artists -- as well as LA County staff.

This is the first time the LA River Master Plan will be revised over 20 years, and it will lay the groundwork for the next 25 years of investment in the river. During the webinar, Dakota of Budding Artists pointed out, “We [in SELA] have no large major museums, art councils, and very limited funded public art.” One of the aspects of the LA River Master Plan that I’m most looking forward to is the SELA Cultural Center.

This Center will be located near the Confluence where the LA River and the Rio Hondo meet in South Gate. This multi-purpose facility will host a variety of events including, art programs, performances, community gatherings, cultural events, and much more. Danaly Perez with Latinas Arts Foundation shifted our conversation to the importance of cultural arts, “Cultural arts simultaneously provide a link to the past. It connects us and our identity,” said Perez.

When it comes to the future of the LA River Master Plan, I think Dakota said it best, “Our community is rich in talent and expertise. Our community is endowed with accomplished creatives and thought leaders.”

The LA River Master Plan will impact generations to come. Your voice and input are critical to making the arts and cultural goal of the LA River Master Plan successful and representative of SELA. You can submit a comment about the plan at https://www.larivermasterplan.org

LA River Facts

  1. It was once a part of daily life in the region.
    Indigenous people like the Gabrielino-Tongva tribe lived along the River.
  1. It was paved after a deadly natural disaster.
    The River's concrete channel was built after a catastrophic flood of New Year's Eve 1934, which killed over 100 people, destroyed 198 homes, and caused millions of dollars in damage.
  1. The River opened for recreation because of 2 rogue kayakers.
    The US Army Corps of Engineers argued that the river wasn't safe for people, except in two small sections. To prove them wrong, writer George Wolfe and a rogue Army Corps biologist, Heather Wylie, kayaked the River. This prompted the EPA to declare the river safe for kayaking.
  1. It has been the backdrop of some iconic movie scenes.
    Blockbusters from Grease to Transformers have filmed scenes in the river.
  1. It's home to an ecosystem of fish and birds.
    Carp, bass, and tilapia swim in the river, though none of them are native wildlife. The LA River is also home to over 250 species of birds.
  1. 1 in 4 Californians live within an hour drive of the LA River.
    That's about 10 million people!

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