The Great LA River CleanUp 2018
It’s time to roll up your sleeves and show your love for the LA River – the Great LA River CleanUp’s back for 2018! Join today and be part of the largest urban river cleanup in America.
For 29 years, FoLAR and our fellow Angelenos have cleaned the Los Angeles River and protected our oceans from trash and refuse. In 2017 we mobilized 10,000 volunteers to remove 100 tons of trash. Help us make 2018 even bigger.
I have personally been fascinated by the LA River since moving to Los Angeles. As an East Coaster relocating from the lush woods of upstate NY and the banks of the gorgeous Charles River in Boston, I would LAUGH at those who even called this usually dry, paved, eye-sore that seemingly snakes through the entire city, a River! No matter where I moved or got a new job, I was always walking and biking along the paths, seeing all the debris, and thinking to myself...LA really doesn’t understand what water is. Even more, when I asked people? Oh, they had NO idea (some didn’t even know there was an LA River…) So, I decided to get over myself and do a bit of research - how did we get here?
...WELL, over ten million years ago, the Los Angeles area was actually covered in water. As mountain ranges developed, runoff of created rich valley areas  perfect for the original source of life for our city of angels! For a long time, the L.A. River ran into a large wetland and did not yet run into the ocean.  We’re talking a “veritable Garden of Eden” where the earliest human inhabitants lived in a “verdant complex of marsh and forest, not a desert.” That was until a series of major floods - Yes, we’re talking Too Much Water - “cut a river channel through forest and swamp all the way south from the Los Angeles Valley to the eastern portion of Rancho Dominguez near the present city of Carson” where it pooled and eventually drained into the ocean.  Many more devastating floods occured and, alongside European settlement, the developing city devised a channelization of the river so they could harness the power. It seems to me like they made that drainage system a bit too efficient...but I’m not a scientist.
The River now spans 51 miles flowing through the nation’s 2nd largest urban region, into two of the world’s busiest port regions, and into the world’s largest water body, the Pacific Ocean.  Because of years of neglect, there has been a lot of effort recently to revitalize, and “activists and the City itself recognized the Los Angeles River as offering huge potential for natural, community, and economic resources which, if harnessed, would present significant opportunities to revitalize the adjacent neighborhoods.”
When I was searching for an Earth Day event, it’s no surprise that my interest in the LA River lead me to FOLAR. FOLAR, or Friends of the LA River, caught my eye because of their commitment to advocacy, education, collaboration and imagination. Most importantly, FOLAR’s goals and vision for the future of the River revolve around their key tenets of revitalization which are access, recreation and ecological restoration.  I was so inspired by the sheer amount of volunteers they mobilized to meet and clean their own city alongside their neighbors. Additionally, Resisterhood has worked with this group in the past and as a first-time event organizer for ResisterhoodLA, the peace of mind of a positive connection was very appealing.
What was so amazing about organizing a group with Resisterhood for FOLAR was that….they did all the work. I had more stress about Not doing enough than I did about getting it all done correctly because I seriously didn’t know what to do. Every question was answered before I asked, every detail had been considered. All I had to really do was get the word out on social media. Don’t worry, I stressed plenty about that.
And of course, as stress in the modern world often is, it was completely unnecessary - as soon as the FOLAR team saw our Resisterhood tees at the event, they came up and told us we were the largest group of volunteers signed up that day and how grateful they were for our commitment to the river. I was so pleased to be a part of something so positive, especially knowing that we made them feel supported and excited was a blessing.
The day was seamless. Resisterhood met at Bond Park in Los Feliz with snacks and galoshes (albeit, maybe not enough) at 9am on a Saturday along side Angelenos of all ages, races, and abilities. After signing in and gathering a free t-shirt, additional snacks, garbage bags, and extra gloves in case you didn’t bring any, they lead us through a brief safety meeting, given in small shifts (they were so organized) and then let us loose on the river. With so many volunteers, the easy to grab items were picked up immediately and my group was Determined to make it to the island in the middle where you could see the big ticket items that needed to be cleared. There were mattresses looped around trees, bags and garbage intertwined with the algae as though it had always been there, old speakers, bike pieces, and many foreign or unidentifiable objects. You could tell with the heavy rains we had recently, many things had forcefully flown through as far as possible and then gotten stuck. Eventually I convinced a friend to tie garbage bags around our legs and trek to the middle. That was a mistake...but quite fun nonetheless.
I left that day wet, dirty, and so happy that I convinced 30 people to join me on a Saturday morning for nothing other than the joy of helping.
I’m so grateful to have been a part of the largest urban river cleanup in America, and I feel more inspired than ever to learn about my city’s history while being a part of its future.
Contributed by Amanda Spinella, Creator + April event organizer.
ABOUT FRIENDS OF THE LA RIVER
Founded in 1986, FOLAR is a 501c3 nonprofit whose mission is to ensure a publicly accessible and ecologically sustainable Los Angeles River by inspiring River stewardship through community engagement, education, advocacy, and thought leadership.
With your help, the Los Angeles River ten years from now is a public gathering place for all Angelenos where recreation and wildlife coexist. FOLAR is a leading powerful force guiding River policy and connecting communities to the River, nationally respected as a leader in urban river revitalization with a membership of 100,000. The FOLAR team is a dynamic force with a permanent office space and visitor’s center on the River.