Month: September 2013

Quick mends: Cleaner urban rivers attract fly fishing

Saturday's rally brings Councilmembers O"Farrell (left) and Cedillo, to the bull horn in Marsh Park. (Jim Burns)
Saturday’s rally brings Councilmembers O”Farrell (left) and Cedillo, to the bull horn in Marsh Park. (Jim Burns)

While we all wait for a decision from Washington about the fate of the Los Angeles River, here’s something to ponder: urban rivers in both the United States and Europe are experiencing major cleanups, moving them from dumpsters to recreation areas.  World Rivers Day, which was celebrated yesterday, should give us all some tangible goals when it comes to fly fishing urban waters.  Consider:

The River Wandle, which runs through central London, went from a haven for brown trout where the disabled Lord Nelson tossed a line in the early 1800s,  to an officially declared “open sewer” by the 1960s.  Now, thanks to vastly improved water quality, trout actually spawn again in the river.  A £2 million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Landscape Partnership Scheme means that the river literally won the lottery in June.

And much closer to home is Denver’s South Platte, covered extensively by the Fly Carpin‘ blog.

Environmental scientist John Novick told the Denver Post this summer “the city has a stated goal of improving water quality for all streams and lakes so they’re fishable and swimmable. We’ve got some issues with elevated background levels of arsenic, and fish are pretty sensitive to arsenic. It’s not a level that’s harmful to human health.” Denver has banned urban camping, an issue that affects cities nationally, a social justice issue with consequences for water quality.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is funding the new Urban Waters Small Grants to improve water quality, and will award grants of $40,000-$60,000 up to $1.6 million, according to its website.  The Los Angeles River watershed is one of 18 eligible geographic areas. The deadline is Nov. 25.

See you on the river, Jim Burns

Public comment period for L.A. River alternatives begins tomorrow

SAY "CHEESE": Wihelmina, age 5, holds the fish, while father Peirce takes the snap and sister, Ursula, age 4, looks on. (Peirce)
SAY “CHEESE”: Wihelmina, age 5, holds the fish, while father Peirce takes the snap and sister, Ursula, age 4, looks on. (Peirce)

Tomorrow is the big day for the long-awaited release of the ARBOR study and its four alternatives to remake the L.A. River. It’s also a chance for you to weigh in, by reviewing the alternatives, then going to the Corps’ website to comment.

I began this blog as an obscure homage to our river and its fish some two and a half years ago, but this summer traffic spiked to just shy of 35,000 hits. Even I’m pretty amazed (in a good way!) at the buzz and comments lariverflyfishing has received. I’d like to think it’s because of my stylish reporting, but, in truth, it’s because a flood of big federal money is coming and people are excited by what the future could hold. As I wrote last month:

“At stake is how much money the federal government is willing to put into implementing an ecosystem

restoration that could possibly remake the Los Angeles River into a vital part of the city. Last week, the

Los Angeles City Council made it officially known that it wanted to see the biggest package possible, that’s

$1 billion (Alternative 20), which would be spent on the river from Glendale Narrows to downtown, an

11-mile area. There are three other “best buy” alternatives that will be spelled soon-to-be-released report,

each with a lesser price tag.”

Interest from many has been very keen as well. We’ve had the L.A. Weekly weigh in on what it says is the conflict between the Los Angeles Army Corps and higher-ups in Washington, D.C.; we’ve had powerful pols wax poetic about the river’s perfumed waters, with both Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Rep. Adam Schiff (D, Burbank) putting some eloquent thoughts down on digital paper.  Even the lifestyle mag Sunset featured a spread in its print version.

So, amid all the excitement, the day finally arrives tomorrow when Angelinos can sound off about the direction they believe the river should go. My hope is that along with the inevitable commercialization, some areas will be left as sanctuaries for wildlife as well as for those who want to be among them. I hope fly fishing — fishing, in general — will remain a viable option; and that the many birds nesting in Glendale Narrows will be given the habitat they need not only to survive, but to thrive. And, let’s get the lead out and do some kayaking. There have been some wonderful stories about kids who dipped a paddle for the first time in our river. I advocate a multi-use, multi-purpose river that is safe during the dry season, with adequate signage, parks and, importantly, law enforcement patrols, one in which a single legal jurisdiction calls the shots.

And, I hope as well that the river reclamation by residents who live close by its banks will continue. Many were amazed at the positive hyper-local response to the Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone. When gangs are forced out, families come in.

As we all move forward into the uncertain future, one thing is sure: change, the river will. Let’s make it the right change.

See you on the river, Jim Burns


L.A. River Pilot Rec Zone closes for the season, called success

Signs such as this one inform visitors to the two-and-a-half mile stretch of water (Courtesy MCRA)
Signs such as this one inform visitors to the two-and-a-half mile stretch of water (Courtesy MCRA)

For Immediate Release (from the MRCA)
Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone Season to End on Labor Day
Hugely Successful Summer Program Allowing Kayaking and other
recreational activities on a 2.5 Mile Stretch of the River Will Close at
Sunset on Monday, Sept. 2.
The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority
(MRCA) announced today that the Los Angeles River Pilot Recreation Zone will be
closing for the season as planned at the end of the Labor Day weekend, on Monday
Sept. 2.
The popular 2.5 mile Los Angeles River Recreation Zone in Elysian Valley near
downtown Los Angeles stretches from Fletcher Drive south to MRCA’s Egret Park. The
Recreation Zone has been managed by the MRCA for 14 weeks since it opened
to the public on Memorial Day. Rangers will officially close the river access at sunset on
Labor Day. Signs will be posted “Closed for the Season,” access points will be closed
off, and other fixtures in place for the duration of program will be removed.
By all measures, the pilot recreation zone was a success,” said MRCA Chief Ranger,
Fernando Gomez, an expert kayaker who is certified in swiftwater and low-angle
rescue, and who organized and led many of the public programs offered by the MRCA.

“People really enjoyed themselves on the river this summer. In addition to all the
kayakers, we saw a big increase in family activity and more people coming close to the
river and getting a new perspective.
“We hope to work with the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Flood Control
District, and the Army Corps of Engineers to offer the program again next year,” added
Under permits issued by the MRCA, the kayak operators Los Angeles River Expeditions
and Los Angeles River Safari provided guided trips to the public. Several thousand
park visitors toured the river through these services or as independent kayakers. In
addition, MRCA rangers provided kayak tours for teenagers from Los Angeles City
Recreation and Parks Recreation Centers throughout the city, as well as “Junior
Rangers” from the MRCA River Unit, Ballona Unit, and the Compton Junior Posse.


I’ll only add that Gomez told me that MRCA didn’t give one fishing ticket during the season. Whether through leniency or compliance, I’m not sure.

See you on the river, Jim Burns