What the LA River Master Plan Could Mean for Access to Nature in LA

What the LA River Master Plan Could Mean for Access to Nature in LA

By Jason Wise

This Earth Month we have a unique opportunity to get involved in the effort to bring a new ribbon of nature, parks, and community to our area around the Los Angeles River.

The LA County Department of Public Works released a draft master plan that is set to guide development and restoration efforts along the entire 51-mile length of the River. The public is invited to send in comments, and Friends of the LA River set up an easy to use comment portal!

The concrete flood control channel that we see at the River today – running from Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach and the Pacific Ocean – was once home to an entire river ecosystem of native plants and wildlife. For the Tongva/Gabrieleño/Kizh people who have called this area home for 8,000 years, this waterway was life, providing abundant resources that they protected and sustained by living in balance with Mother Earth.

Things began to change in the 1500s when European colonists arrived; more and more people moved to the area, throwing off the balance. After a devastating flood in 1938, the wild and moody LA River was paved over, destroying most of the ecosystem. But some wild remains, specifically the three distinct “soft bottom” areas of the River (Sepulveda Basin, Glendale Narrows, and the Long Beach Estuary) that couldn’t be fully paved over. Those areas provide a glimpse of a more natural past and can give us a lot of ideas for a more environmentally-friendly River future, one that balances plants and animals with the communities of people who live nearby. 

We believe there are many good elements to the existing master plan, but also a number of areas for improvement. We can use this plan to bring nature and green space back to neighborhoods that were stripped of it in 1938, while also ensuring those communities aren’t displaced in the process.

Now is a great time to get involved so that the opportunity to revitalize our River, and every living thing around it, isn’t wasted!

Take a look at the draft master plan (larivermasterplan.org), check out these two articles that discuss different aspects and concerns about the plan, and then head over the Friends of the LA River comment portal and  make your voice heard on this critical local environmental issue.


Jason Wise is a naturalist and outdoor educator who teaches young people about the wonders of nature and how to become advocates for the planet. He currently works for Friends of the LA River as an educator taking kids on virtual explorations of wild Southern California ecosystems

Hidden Gems: 5 Los Angeles Parks that are Perfect for Earth Day

Hidden Gems: 5 Los Angeles Parks that are Perfect for Earth Day

By Amanda Stemen

One of the best things about the world shutting down in the last year has been that people are spending more time outdoors. In Los Angeles, this newfound appreciation for nature has also come with more difficulty finding open, uncrowded green space. But have no fear! For those of you who are looking to stay away from the crowds, either because of COVID or just wanting some peace and quiet, here are five hidden gem parks in L.A. just waiting for you to explore. Shhh, though, we don’t want everyone finding out about them.

Elyria Canyon Park

Hiking the trails of this park will make you feel as if you’ve been teleported to a magical land far from Los Angeles. Yet, its plant life is actually the native habitat of the hills of Mount Washington. While it’s mostly hiking trails, there are places to stop and picnic if you’d rather lounge around or take a break. There are also glimpses of downtown L.A., the L.A. River, and the Griffith Observatory to remind us we haven’t actually left at all; indeed, this magical space exists in the middle of a city.

Elysian Park

Elysian Park is actually one of the larger parks in Los Angeles and home to Dodger Stadium, yet it’s rarely crowded. It has many hiking trails to explore, open fields to gather with family and friends, hidden areas if you want to disappear for a bit, picnic tables, BBQs, and bathrooms – everything you need to have an adventure or chill out without having to travel a great distance. Also, the views of downtown and Dodger Stadium, especially at sunset, are unparalleled.

Lake Hollywood Park

Located in a neighborhood in the hills west of Griffith Park, this park is situated right below the Hollywood Sign, yet lacks any pretentiousness and is barely noticed, even among locals. It’s almost always empty with a large grassy space perfect for lying down and reading a book, giving your dog some exercise, or playing some outdoor games with kids or childlike adults. It’s also near Lake Hollywood Reservoir in case you want to walk, run, or bike around a body of water. (Unfortunately, you have to leave your dog at home for this one.)

South Los Angeles Wetlands Park

While there isn’t much open space to lounge about or play around in, South Los Angeles Wetlands Park is an innovative project in a historically underserved area of the city that is well worth checking out. A previous brownfield site was transformed into this park which uses urban runoff as a treatment-wetland sustaining resource. There are walking paths around the wetlands, perfect for viewing nature that has made this space its home.

Vista Hermosa Park

This park, right next to and overlooking downtown Los Angeles, has gotten more attention this past year, but is still worth visiting, especially if you’ve never been. Pretty well hidden in historic Filipinotown, this park has walking trails, streams, meadows, bunches of trees, a nature-themed playground, nearby soccer field, and an amphitheater.


Amanda Stemen is a member of the Sierra Club, as well as a licensed outdoor therapist and writer who loves to spend time in Los Angeles’ parks.