Riverwalk construction finally set to start

CITY HALL — After years of delays, construction finally is set to begin next week on a long awaited pathway along the Glendale portion of the Los Angeles River.

Discussed for the past decade, the so-called Glendale Narrows Riverwalk project received concept design approval from the City Council in 2006, but in recent years has met a number of roadblocks.

Those roadblocks ranged from a funding freeze during a previous state budget crisis to the sluggish approval process at a variety of public agencies that have jurisdiction along the Los Angeles River channel.

But the bulk of the delay for the planned $1.6-million walkway stemmed from protracted negotiations with DreamWorks to gain access to a 15-foot strip of land along the studio's border.

Now, with final approvals from officials at both DreamWorks and Los Angeles County in hand, project crews have begun site-clearing to make way for the first construction phase, and city officials will celebrate its ground breaking next week.

Northeast Trees, the nonprofit that is designing and building the project, expects that construction will last for about nine months, officials said.

“I’m incredibly excited to see this getting under construction,” said Dave Ahern, capital projects manager for the Community Services & Parks Department. “It’s been much anticipated, and it’s really the start of something pretty terrific along the river for us.”

The first phase will feature a half-mile-long, 12-foot-wide paved path with bike lanes and pedestrian areas, including a small entry park and two public riding facilities for local equestrians.

“Much of the area along the L.A. River is fairly blighted, so this really revitalizes this whole edge,” Ahern said.

City officials are also finalizing the design for the final phase of the project, which would include a pedestrian bridge linking Glendale to Griffith Park. The City Council must still sign off on this phase of the project.

Once the City Council selects a first and second design preference, Ahern said officials will be in a better position to go after funding.

Cost estimates for the proposed bridge range from $2 million to $30 million, depending on the design, according to a draft of the concepts released last year.

The pathway is located in the city’s Rancho neighborhood, where residents have long awaited improved beautification and public riding access.

“We’re just thrilled,” said Joanne Hedge, president of the Glendale Rancho Homeowners Assn. “We can exhale now.”

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