This past weekend, over 5,000 volunteers headed down to the Los Angeles River as part of Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa’s “LA River Day of Service.” Held in partnership with the Friends of the LA River (FoLAR) and their annual “Great Los Angeles River Cleanup,” this event was a collaborative effort
which included the participation of various community based organizations, schools, local business’ and neighborhood councils. By far, this was the largest river clean up in the City’s history.
“LA River Day of Service” featured 45 community service projects and 14 cleanup locations in communities along the 51-mile Los Angeles River. Activities included community environmental education, community gardening along the river, graffiti removal, bird watching, native planting, water quality testing, bridge tours, and children’s art activities.
From the Valley to the Eastside, numerous neighborhood councils along the LA River and its tributaries came together to serve this urban and often overlooked treasure. Neighborhood Councils included Atwater Village, Boyle Heights, Cypress Park, Elysian Valley-Riverside, Foothill Trails, Lincoln Heights, Panorama City, Reseda and Sunland Tujunga. For some of these neighborhood councils serving the LA River is nothing new but for others it was an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the river.
In Atwater Village, 300 volunteers joined the Atwater Village Neighborhood Council and Friends of Atwater Village to restore the area adjacent to the Sunnynook Footbridge that crosses over the LA River. Shopping carts, mattresses and other trash were taken out of the river, the entrance to the Sunnynook Path was repaired with new decomposed granite and native plants were placed in the ground.
Over 125 people participated in a community resource fair with the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council, Boyle Heights Youth Technology Center, El Centro de Ayuda, and many community organizations for the LA River Day of Service. The Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council sponsored the event and distributed reusable bottles to those in attendance.
The Panorama City Neighborhood Council engaged 300 community members at Vista Middle School and the neighboring wash. Partners included Vista Middle School, Panorama High School, Valor Academy, Phoenix House, Kaiser-Permanente, offices of elected officials and families who gathered to clean up the Pacoima wash and Vista Middle School, as well as plant over 60 plants and palm trees.
For the Reseda Neighborhood Council, public safety played a factor in transforming the Aliso Creek portion of the River from an eyesore into an attractive pedestrian pathway. For many years, the space between the wash fence and the street had been neglected and used as a dumping ground. It was overgrown with weeds and unkempt trees. It had also become a place for various criminal activities. The neighborhood council very impressively organized their community in this beautification effort.
They gained strong support from their public officials. The City sent trimmers to cut back and thin out the overgrown trees, so that on this Saturday morning, the volunteers could focus on the weeds and overgrown shrubs. They engaged over 100 volunteers from local non-profits, businesses, churches, a high school, and a sober living house.
The Day of Service culminated at El Rio de Los Angeles State Park with a volunteer celebration featuring a free concert by Ozomatli. The spirit of volunteerism and service that was present at the LA River Day of Service is what Mayor Villaraigosa envisions taking place across the City (and across issues) throughout the year. Neighborhood Councils are evidence of this type of civic engagement.
(Rafael Gonzalez is Chief Service Officer and Joseph Hari is West Area Director Office of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa – Neighborhood & Community Services.) -cw
Vol 9 Issue 36
Pub: May 6, 2011