Launching a new vision of the L.A. River

The long-awaited Paddle the Los Angeles River pilot program got off to a wobbly start Monday as two dozen civic leaders in hard hats and bulging life vests stepped into kayaks and pushed out through murky ripples in the Sepulveda Basin.

The group of flood control officials and City Councilmen Tony Cardenas and Ed Reyes was chaperoned by experienced kayakers and naturalists on hand to make sure no one tipped over into the treated urban runoff or entangled themselves in the heavy brush laden with shredded clothing and plastic bags that lines the 70-foot-wide channel.

The maiden voyage of the first legal float down the river in seven decades only ventured a few hundred yards from the put-in point at the Balboa Boulevard bridge. But for Reyes, the 30-minute ride past glades of sycamore and oak trees where cormorants and herons roost triggered dreams of a regional recreational zone in the making.

"Keeping this river in a straitjacket — off-limits to even the people who live alongside it — has been punitive to the environment and the community," Reyes said. "This program will enable a new generation of Angelenos to enjoy the river as a living being and an important part of their lives."  L.A. TIMES

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