During this weekend’s middle river section cleanup, I decided to walk off the beaten path in search of a fishing line recycler at Bowtie Parcel. I’d never spent any time at the oddly named area, but the sky was clear, the wind, light, as I walked across an inauspicious patch of land.
Conservation corps. members unloaded the latest haul of garbage from a flatbed into a large debris container. As I walked, the desert sand underfoot felt ugly and crunchy, threatening, not anything like the beautiful Marsh Park that lies almost directly across the river.
Squinting into unrelenting sunshine, I zeroed in on a distant sign, and as I approached remembered exactly where I was — the beginning of the Bowtie Interpretive Walk. At last, I’d made it.
Last year, during one of FoLAR’s fish study outings to Long Beach, I’d met a fisher who was obviously new to the game. He held his tenkara rod in the way we all did at some point earlier in our fishing avocations: pridefully, tentatively, respectfully, as if he didn’t quite know yet what it was capable of, nor what it might coax from his spirit. I envied him in that moment, because, for me, discovering fly fishing was the beginning of true love. As with all true loves, it still is.
Rosten Woo, the artist, had invited me to tour his interpretive walk months ago, but because of work schedules and the vagaries of a Los Angeles life, I’d not met his invitation, yet here I was, finding it, while playing a bit of cleanup hooky.
I’d been intrigued by his description: numbered signs set up along an urban path with the innovative use of SoundCloud for the audio tour. Bring headphones, he’d said, so that you could really hear what’s going on.
Sans headphones, yet enjoying the 30-minute urban audio tour today, I learned that California State Parks purchased this section — shaped like a bowtie — from Union Pacific Railroad for almost $11 million in 2003. The plan is to weave its 10-plus acres into an 100-acre park.
As the tour unfolded over more than 40 minutes and a mile of walking, I learned many things:
— Pine trees hate palm trees. Odd as that sounds, there’s a reason why.
— Eventually L.A. will be “palm less” again.
— Monarch butterflies need native milkweed to survive.
— Vapors from train cleanings long ago may or may not seep up through the soil
— NEIS means “North East Interceptor Sewer” and may hold the key to the park’s future.
— The first and most vocal proponents of native horticulture — the Nazis.
And that wasn’t even halfway through the walk.
Eventually, the audio tour ended and I found that fishing line container, scarred by graffiti, but there, all the same, a lonely sentinel and reminder not to ruin what we are gifted. And as I gazed at the river’s fluttering water down the riprap, it was like looking into the future.
Don’t ever believe we can’t have what we want from our politicians, our urban planners, our dedicated dreamers. We very ordinary folk want this river to be returned to our city. And anyone who can squint, as Rosten did, easily sees why.
See you on the river, Jim Burns