Rediscovering the River

Rediscovering the RiverRobert Gottlieb, Orion Online
In 1985 Los Angeles poet Lewis McAdams and other artists sought to liberate the Los Angeles River from its extensive concrete channels by using “language and imagery as political weapons,” forming a new organization, Friends of the L.A. River (FoLAR). But it wasn’t until four years ago, when McAdams met with Chinatown community activist Chui Mui, that their dreams could become reality. To Mui, the urban river symbolized “a community asset as well as a piece of nature in the city,” a vision contrary to the Army Corp’s “water freeway” that trademarked Los Angeles as the “anti-environment.” As Robert Gottlieb reports in Orion Online, the two activists arranged a community conference that explored “not just environmental restoration, but how river advocacy . . . could be tied to initiatives regarding open space and other community needs.” And when some influential Los Angeles developers bypassed L.A.’s environmental review process, a political battle ensued that spilled over into the mayoral election. Leading candidates declared that “an environmental review was necessary and a new approach to the site was required,” and after negotiations with the developers “the state purchased the land, and the city’s first-ever downtown state park was established.”
–Mary Matze
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