Is the Los Angeles River natural? To answer this question we may have to define what natural is, explore the history of the Los Angeles River, and the evolution of our changing culturally diverse Angeleno communities. Although, answers to the posed question may subjectively vary, the intent of this piece is to identify and recognize the Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR), whom for decades has actively taken leadership roles in shifting societal misconceptions of our river and nature in general.
The Los Angeles River lost its “natural” phase after undergoing two very large flood control projects in 1936 and in 1960. The goal was to encase the river with cement from start to finish to prevent erosion and prompt the city’s built environment or human made landscapes (i.e. buildings, parks, neighborhoods, etc.). For those who don’t know, this happens to be a 51 mile-long cemented river that starts in the San Fernando Valley and drains to the Pacific Ocean in Long Beach. In fact, the river was featured in famous films such as Grease, Terminator 2, Drive, and T.I.’s “Live your Life” music video.
Before the river was encased and distanced from its natural course, it was indeed a lively stream that nourished wild berries, sycamore trees, birds and more. The flood control projects made drastic changes to Los Angeles’ topography and also hindered our conceptions of the natural environment. For decades the river has been hosting barb wired fences, graffiti, litter, bulky items, shopping carts, etc.
If not for the goals that organizations such as FOLAR have been tirelessly working on, the Los Angeles River would not be undergoing its revitalization initiatives. FOLAR is a “non-profit organization founded in 1986 to protect and restore the natural historic heritage of the Los Angeles River and its riparian habitat through inclusive planning, education and wise stewardship.” The organization’s mission is to bring people closer to the river through education and environmental stewardship.
This Saturday, May 10, 2014 @ 9 AM – 12 PM, FOLAR will be hosting its 25th LA River Clean Up!
Come out and be part of the great work this organization continues to do for the beautification and health of our river!
For more information: