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

Keep Griffith Park Wild: Stop the Hollywood Sign Aerial Tram

Keep Griffith Park Wild: Stop the Hollywood Sign Aerial Tram

Griffith Park in Los Angeles is one of the largest urban parks in North America, and arguably one of the wildest. Here’s how you can help keep it that way.


A haven for both hikers and wildlife alike, including the famous P-22 mountain lion, Griffith Park is a green gem in the middle of urban Los Angeles. This public space is free and open to all, no matter their economic status or outdoor experience. It’s heavily used by both locals seeking the solitude of nature and tourists seeking that same nature, along with some epic views of the city and Hollywood Sign.

While development exists around the outskirts of Griffith Park (such as the LA Zoo, Greek Theater, and Griffith Observatory), the vast, wild middle of the park is relatively untouched. Now, a proposal for an aerial tram threatens to change that.

An aerial tram cutting through the middle of Griffith Park to the Observatory and/or Hollywood Sign, along with plans for a potential visitor center and a viewing platform at the top of Mount Lee near the sign, would irreversibly harm the largely natural landscape. It would create an overwhelming influx of visitors to quieter areas of the park that have been painstakingly preserved, altering wildlife patterns and adding new fire dangers to a very dry section of the Santa Monica Mountains.

A mechanical aerial tramway speeding above hikers also flies in the face of the park’s mission. Griffith Park has been preserved because in 1896, Colonel Griffith donated the Park to the citizens of Los Angeles as “a place of recreation and rest for the masses.” By creating a ticketed-only attraction in the middle of a city park, this aerial tram would turn this very public space that is intended for all Angelenos and other visitors, into a park only for those who can afford it.

We count on every Angeleno to help preserve our green spaces for all to enjoy. Join the petition to stop the Hollywood Sign Aerial Tram, and keep Griffith Park wild:

Resolution On Proposed Griffith Park Tram/Skyway:

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter opposes any proposed aerial trams into or within Griffith Park.  (Adopted September 2018)

More Background Information:

In 1896, Colonel Griffith donated the Park to the citizens of Los Angeles as “a place of recreation and rest for the masses.” He envisioned the Park as an oasis for residents and visitors to reconnect with nature.  Today the Park is used by a diverse set of Angelenos, for hiking, bicycling, picnicking, and more. The Park is also the largest natural wilderness within the City of Los Angeles parks department, containing a diverse ecosystem that houses a substantial number of native plant and animal species who rely on it to survive, including the world famous urban mountain lion, “P-22”.  The Park is designated a Significant Ecological Area by the County of Los Angeles General Plan and a wildlife corridor linking the Santa Monica Mountains to the Verdugo Mountain range. It is considered one of 34 biodiversity hotspots for conservation worldwide by Conservation International. As such, the Park requires special consideration whenever its flora and fauna are threatened.

Previous proposals for aerial trams in the Park have been criticized by environmentalists and others. In 2005, a draft of a Griffith Park Master Plan including two proposed aerial trams was widely criticized for how it would despoil and commercialize the Park. The Griffith Park Working Group, created in response to that plan, ultimately asserted that the Park should maintain its Urban Wilderness Identity. 

However, the 2018 Dixon Report (“Comprehensive Strategies Report: Improving Access, Safety, and Mobility Around Griffith Park & the Hollywood Sign”), commissioned by Councilmember David Ryu’s office and focusing on ways to alleviate problems associated with people trying to visit or view the Hollywood Sign, mentions the possibility of an aerial tram from one of several locations in the north or northeast parts of the Park (the Headworks Reservoir, the LA Zoo, and the Wilson and Harding Golf Course) to a Hollywood Sign viewing platform somewhere in the park. In a June 2018 evaluation of the Dixon Report strategies, Recreation and Parks General Manager Mike Shull and City Council Legislative Analyst Sharon Tso rated the aerial tram strategy as feasible, seemed to think it would help alleviate traffic in neighborhoods south of the park, and even appear to suggest building aerial trams in other Park locations.

There are, in fact, a number of options that would actually address the congestion in the neighborhoods south of the park, while giving visitors the photo shot they want; and many are mentioned in the Dixon Report. One promising strategy mentioned in the report is having electric shuttles take visitors from the Metro Station through the currently-closed Beachwood Gate, thus giving them access to the shortest hiking route to the Sign. Other simple strategies in the report include extending DASH shuttle service to Sign-related trailheads, increasing traffic and parking efficiency, and collaborating with Google and Waze to communicate more accurate information. In addition, a Hollywood Sign Visitors’ Center and viewing platform could be created in Hollywood, perhaps atop a commercial building. All of these alternatives could potentially help meet neighborhood concerns while still preserving the natural environment of the park. 

Finally, there is an intrinsic environmental justice element associated with the monetization of the public Griffith Park by a private entity.  Currently, the Park is free and accessible to all people Angelenos and tourists alike. Converting free, open, and wild park space into an attraction only available to those with the means to purchase tickets, chips away at the communal abundance of the Park, intended for all of us to enjoy, at no charge.

The Sierra Club Angeles Chapter has not endorsed any specific Griffith Park traffic alleviation alternative detailed in the Dixon report. We simply oppose any aerial tram that intersects wilderness areas of the park, and believe alternatives to this proposal should be explored.

Corralitas Public Stairway

Corralitas Public Stairway

The Verdugo Hills group in conjunction with the central group are working to beautify the Corralitas stairway. Saturday October 27th at 9:30 am we had Glendale College students working in the garden. This stairway is right next to the red car property and our eventual goal is for that to be a park/community garden. Something other than another building! See the full photo album here.

2019 East L.A. Murals Hike

2019 East L.A. Murals Hike

Join us for an 1 mile urban hike as we explore the murals that truly express the natural and cultural history of East LA. All as a fundraiser for Sierra Club Central Group! Lunch by La Terraza in City Terrace is included. This event sold out last time it was hosted at the LACMA “Art of Resistance” show, so now is your best chance to check out this historic tour. More info: bit.ly/ELAMURALS

Central Group receives Certificate of Merit

Central Group receives Certificate of Merit

The Central Group was recently honored to receive a Certificate Of Merit from the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club, a Certificate Of Special Congressional Recognition from Representative Brad Sherman, and a Certificate Of Merit from the City of Los Angeles and Councilperson Pail Koretz, all for its work in reorganizing and becoming the 14th Group of the Chapter. This was no small task but took enormous effort by a group of very dedicated volunteers. We look forward to our great future together protecting and enjoying the planet right here in the heart of Los Angeles.

Motivation Monday

Motivation Monday

We held our first Motivation Monday on January 14 to inspire members to set powerful eco-friendly resolutions for 2019. We had a number of booths with different themes, including calculating your carbon footprint, tips for a zero waste lifestyle, upcoming hikes and outings, and creating your own digital vision board. Tell us on FB some of your own resolutions and how they’re coming along and check out this video from the event.