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BURBANK : Volunteers Called to L.A. River Cleanup

The Los Angeles River, which through flood-control projects during the past 50 years has become mostly a river of concrete, will have up to 2,000 friends today caring for the parts of the river that remain in a natural state.

Martin Schlageter, executive director for the Friends of the Los Angeles River, who will be joining volunteers in a spot along the river in Burbank, said the group has pulled junked cars and motorcycles out of the water and found mattresses hanging in trees overhead.

“The mattresses are swept away from homeless encampments during flooding,” said Schlageter, explaining that during a rain the river rises high enough and the trees bend low enough for trash to end up in the branches.

This is the fifth year the Friends of the Los Angeles River has held the cleanup. The event has become more popular in the past two years, attracting more attention and volunteers, Schlageter said.

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Last year, there were 1,100 volunteers, and Schlageter said he expects between 1,500 and 2,000 today, working on six different spots on the river between the Sepulveda Basin and Long Beach.

Even the homeless living along the banks of the river have come out to help with the cleanup, picking up trash such as plastic bottles, men-at-work signs and shopping carts, he said. Last year, 35 tons of trash was collected.

The recent rains will not affect the cleanup, he said. The river was already back to normal levels on Friday.

The 55-mile-long river begins in front of Canoga Park High School and runs to Long Beach. It was a natural river until the 1930s, when channel projects were started to control flooding.

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The Friends of the Los Angeles River was founded in 1986.

“Someone needed to start thinking about the river as a river,” Schlageter said. “Someone needed to concern itself with the needs of the ecosystem.”

Those wishing to volunteer Saturday morning--the cleanup is between 9 a.m. and noon--can call the group at 213-223-0585.


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