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Section of L.A. River opens for kayaking, recreation

May 24, 2013|By Frank Shyong | Los Angeles Times

A section of the Los Angeles River will open for public use Monday for the first time since the river was encased in concrete in the 1930s.

Public officials will gather Monday morning at Marsh Park north of downtown for a ceremonial kayak ride down a 2 1/2-mile stretch of the river that has been designated a free recreation zone for the summer.

People can boat, walk, kayak or fish in the 2 1/2-mile section of the river between Fletcher Avenue and Oso Park from dawn to sundown until Labor Day on Sept. 2. Some of those activities have been allowed in the past but by permit only.

Public interest in river recreation has burgeoned since 2011, when city leaders opened a different section of the river for guided tours by the Los Angeles Conservation Corps.  Tickets for the guided summer tours sold out within minutes. After adding more trips in 2012, the program sold out within two days.

The Army Corps of Engineers paved the Los Angeles River in the 1930s after repeated flooding caused several deaths and more than $1 billion in property damage. Only a few areas of the riverbed were left untouched.

Over the years, the Los Angeles River became a 51-mile concrete punchline, a symbol for unchecked urban development. But in the 1980s, local and environmental groups began pressuring city leaders to remove some of the concrete.

Voters went on to approve millions of dollars in bond measures for improvements, and the river gradually reemerged as a recreation opportunity.

Today the river has hiking and bike trails, youth programs and some stubborn greenery. The river also hosts more than 200 species of birds, including yellow warblers, hooded orioles and the federally endangered least Bell's vireo.

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